ACTON — Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District can no longer rely on charter school revenue to fill budget holes.
The charter school program began under former Superintendent Brent Woodard with one charter school in 2012. By 2017 there were 17 charter schools authorized by the District.
“To the best of my knowledge I think the board has done an excellent job of approving these charters in accordance with the law,” Superintendent Larry King said during a special board meeting Thursday night.
In the 2014-15 school year, the District had approximately 3,036 students including charter school students for average daily attendance. That produced an estimated revenue of about $884,731. In 2018-19, the District’s average daily attendance was 19,191 students with an estimated revenue of $5.7 million.
The District is down to 12 authorized charter schools.
“The decrease in charters had to do with staff, partly, holding charter schools accountable,” King said.
The District was sued in 2014 by Los Angeles Unified School District and Newhall School District, which accused the District of approving the charter petitions for the now-closed Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences as a way to raise revenue.
The District collects 1% revenue from charter schools for providing oversight. The District collected an additional 2% for providing direct services and rent-free facilities.
Acton-Agua Dulce was included in a 2017 state audit triggered by small school Districts authorizing charter schools and the revenue produced by those authorizations.
King and Lynn David, deputy superintendent of Business Services, testified before a grand jury regarding the A3 charter school network, which the San Diego County District Attorney’s office deemed vehicles of fraud. Acton-Agua Dulce authorized the now-closed Valiant Preparatory Academy, an online charter high school.
Eleven people were indicted. Acton-Acton was one of six Districts to authorize A3 charter schools. As of a result of the case, King said the District could only charge charter schools for the actual cost of oversight.
“That’s a change in the fee structure drastically different than what we’re accustomed to,” King said.
Acton-Agua Unified enrollment dropped about 85 students during distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The District’s current enrollment is approximately 920 students. The estimated enrollment for 2021-22 fiscal year is 880 students. Enrollment is projected to drop again in 2022-23 fiscal year to 764 students.
The average loss of Local Control Funding Formula revenue for each student that leaves the District is $10,200 per average daily attendance.
“We are in a deficit spending trend, or pattern, and we have been for a number of years,” King said.
The one thing that helped save the District was the charter revenue. The District has an estimated 40.3%, or $7million, ending fund balance for the current 2020-21 fiscal year. If you remove the charter revenue, the ending fund balance drops to 36.1%,or $6.32 million.
In fiscal year 2022-23, the ending fund balance drops to 27.13%, or $4,8 million for the adopted budget. Minus the charter revenue, it drops to minus-0.49%, or minus- $88,850.
The District must maintain a minimum 4% reserve. The District kept the high ending fund balance in anticipation of losing the charter revenue, King said.
King pledged to bring the board a first interim report in December with a positive certification.
“I’m going to bring to you a budget that shows our District as fiscally solvent,” King said.