Commentary: Beware of the Growth Boogie Man in the School Budget Debate

In two days, there have been two letters to the editor in the Davis Enterprise that have linked the issue of growth to the issue of the school budget deficit that is projected at $4 million for this year.

On Wednesday, February 27, 2008, Larry Moore of Davis writes:

“The situation with the school budget, the charter school and the growth of Davis are serious issues that should be carefully and continually evaluated as they have been. However, I have not seen mentioned that maybe these issues are related to each other. Not withstanding the state budget, the plight of our schools is related in part to the declining enrollment.”

He concludes:

“The plight of the school budget and the no-growth mantra of Davis are related.”

Yesterday, a similar letter by John Foraker with a similar vein:

“Are you frustrated that Davis schools’ educational programs are soon to be gutted, at least one school closed, while band and other ‘non- essential’ curriculum are also sacrificed? Me too! But even more frustrating is the inability, or intellectual unwillingness, of many to connect the dots from our recent city track record.

Allow me to help with the basic math: Virtually no new family housing or major developments for five-plus years equals fewer families buying Davis homes equals fewer kids of school age equals less revenue for daily operation of our schools. It is, unfortunately, that simple.

So, next time you stand up to decry a new development, or to sign a petition supporting small-footprint infill development over the kinds of homes more families actually want to buy, remember that your well-intentioned position is not without consequence.”

It was only a matter of time before these two issues became intertwined–with the growth boogie man popping its head out to suggest we had better grow or our schools are imperiled.

However before we plunge head long into new developments let us take a brief examination of the problem.

It is interesting that both gentlemen focused on declining enrollment. And indeed with a steeper decline this year of 180 students, that is a concern. But even at 180 students, that only accounts for $1 million of the $4 million deficit. Or 25% of the problem.

$1.5 million are due to the budget cuts, but more concerning is the $1.5 million that is due to fiscal mismanagement under the previous CBO of the district. We will talk more about this problem next week, but the basics are that one-time monies were used to fund ongoing programs. When those monies dried up, the district was left in a budget deficit that ate away at its voluntary (as opposed to state mandate reserves).

The result is two-fold. First it caused a budget deficit that we have to correct for. But just as bad, it eliminated reserves that we could have used this year for a softer landing.

The state fundings cuts also amount to roughly $1.5 million. Experts suspect that Democrats will greatly reduce that number, but even if that $1.5 million is cut to $.5 million, the district will have to cut $3 million this year. So even in the best case scenario, that’s a problem.

Declining enrollment is indeed the problem, but even under a rosier economic projection it only amounts to 33% of the deficit. Even if we had no declining enrollment we would be facing $2 to $3 million in cuts.

The second part of the picture is looking at the growth policies. The only substantial development project that was nixed was Covell Village. Are these two letter writers suggesting that declining enrollment is a reason that we should have passed Covell Village?

There are a number of reasons that Covell Village was a poor project. The average cost of a home there would have been between $400,000 and $600,000. It is true that there would have been affordable housing there, but realistically speaking, the majority of the units there would probably not have contributed much to the school district’s population and it would have been phased in over 10 years.

Aside from Covell Village, what housing development has been nixed? So to attribute all of the declining enrollment to the failure of Covell Village seems to be a bit extreme.

I don’t disagree with the premise that we need more affordable housing for younger families. Along those lines the best way to produce that would be to provide housing for young faculty members to move into the city. A project like say, West Village.

If the city would partner with the university to provide specifically for faculty and student housing, we could increase the amount of housing for particularly young faculty members who were just hired by the university. Those young faculty members are most likely to have young children and would then bring their young children to our district.

What is clear at this point is that they are going to attempt to use the budget deficit with the school as a wedge to demand new development. We need to keep in mind two things. First, that declining enrollment only accounts for a small percentage of the budget deficit. And second, that many of the projects proposed in recent years were not going to bring in a lot of families with children. We need to be smart in the face of adversity and not panic to try to implement simple solutions that do not solve the problem.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Land Use/Open Space

56 comments

  1. Objective analysis of the Covell Village development revealed that the student increase from the CV development would occur in the JH and HS school population. This would require the building of an additional HS facility . As Don Shor posted recently, The declining enrollment is in the elementary level with a shift in student population to the higher grades; there has been little decrease in TOTAL student enrollment when viewed over a realistic time span.

  2. Objective analysis of the Covell Village development revealed that the student increase from the CV development would occur in the JH and HS school population. This would require the building of an additional HS facility . As Don Shor posted recently, The declining enrollment is in the elementary level with a shift in student population to the higher grades; there has been little decrease in TOTAL student enrollment when viewed over a realistic time span.

  3. Objective analysis of the Covell Village development revealed that the student increase from the CV development would occur in the JH and HS school population. This would require the building of an additional HS facility . As Don Shor posted recently, The declining enrollment is in the elementary level with a shift in student population to the higher grades; there has been little decrease in TOTAL student enrollment when viewed over a realistic time span.

  4. Objective analysis of the Covell Village development revealed that the student increase from the CV development would occur in the JH and HS school population. This would require the building of an additional HS facility . As Don Shor posted recently, The declining enrollment is in the elementary level with a shift in student population to the higher grades; there has been little decrease in TOTAL student enrollment when viewed over a realistic time span.

  5. The point is–Davisites have voted down a single development. The reason for that was issues such as traffic, sprawl, size of the development, and unaffordability of the homes in the development. Since that time there has not been a single development proposed that would bring in new students. And yet this is becoming a boogie man despite the fact that as DPD correctly argues declining enrollment accounts for less than 25% of the budget woes.

  6. The point is–Davisites have voted down a single development. The reason for that was issues such as traffic, sprawl, size of the development, and unaffordability of the homes in the development. Since that time there has not been a single development proposed that would bring in new students. And yet this is becoming a boogie man despite the fact that as DPD correctly argues declining enrollment accounts for less than 25% of the budget woes.

  7. The point is–Davisites have voted down a single development. The reason for that was issues such as traffic, sprawl, size of the development, and unaffordability of the homes in the development. Since that time there has not been a single development proposed that would bring in new students. And yet this is becoming a boogie man despite the fact that as DPD correctly argues declining enrollment accounts for less than 25% of the budget woes.

  8. The point is–Davisites have voted down a single development. The reason for that was issues such as traffic, sprawl, size of the development, and unaffordability of the homes in the development. Since that time there has not been a single development proposed that would bring in new students. And yet this is becoming a boogie man despite the fact that as DPD correctly argues declining enrollment accounts for less than 25% of the budget woes.

  9. Total enrollment in the district was the same in 2007 as it was in 2000. It has shifted toward the secondary grades, though there was an increase in K-6 from 2006 to 2007. Why do we have 91 more 4th graders? More to the point, and worth repeating as often as needed: the consultant’s figures for the district enrollment are proving wrong. Whether this is a one-year anomaly, we don’t know. What we do know is that the district has NEVER been able to project enrollment. There are too many variables.
    The problem was not a lack of students, it was the distribution of them across grade levels. Plus the district built new schools based on projected increases in enrollment that didn’t occur.
    The statistics are all available online at the state Department of Education web site.

  10. Total enrollment in the district was the same in 2007 as it was in 2000. It has shifted toward the secondary grades, though there was an increase in K-6 from 2006 to 2007. Why do we have 91 more 4th graders? More to the point, and worth repeating as often as needed: the consultant’s figures for the district enrollment are proving wrong. Whether this is a one-year anomaly, we don’t know. What we do know is that the district has NEVER been able to project enrollment. There are too many variables.
    The problem was not a lack of students, it was the distribution of them across grade levels. Plus the district built new schools based on projected increases in enrollment that didn’t occur.
    The statistics are all available online at the state Department of Education web site.

  11. Total enrollment in the district was the same in 2007 as it was in 2000. It has shifted toward the secondary grades, though there was an increase in K-6 from 2006 to 2007. Why do we have 91 more 4th graders? More to the point, and worth repeating as often as needed: the consultant’s figures for the district enrollment are proving wrong. Whether this is a one-year anomaly, we don’t know. What we do know is that the district has NEVER been able to project enrollment. There are too many variables.
    The problem was not a lack of students, it was the distribution of them across grade levels. Plus the district built new schools based on projected increases in enrollment that didn’t occur.
    The statistics are all available online at the state Department of Education web site.

  12. Total enrollment in the district was the same in 2007 as it was in 2000. It has shifted toward the secondary grades, though there was an increase in K-6 from 2006 to 2007. Why do we have 91 more 4th graders? More to the point, and worth repeating as often as needed: the consultant’s figures for the district enrollment are proving wrong. Whether this is a one-year anomaly, we don’t know. What we do know is that the district has NEVER been able to project enrollment. There are too many variables.
    The problem was not a lack of students, it was the distribution of them across grade levels. Plus the district built new schools based on projected increases in enrollment that didn’t occur.
    The statistics are all available online at the state Department of Education web site.

  13. Total enrollment may be the same, but how much more does the district have to spend now in health insurance costs for their employees, compared with 2000? What about just the extra costs due to increased pay for teachers as they accrue years of tenure? And other things have increased as well such as electricity costs.

  14. Total enrollment may be the same, but how much more does the district have to spend now in health insurance costs for their employees, compared with 2000? What about just the extra costs due to increased pay for teachers as they accrue years of tenure? And other things have increased as well such as electricity costs.

  15. Total enrollment may be the same, but how much more does the district have to spend now in health insurance costs for their employees, compared with 2000? What about just the extra costs due to increased pay for teachers as they accrue years of tenure? And other things have increased as well such as electricity costs.

  16. Total enrollment may be the same, but how much more does the district have to spend now in health insurance costs for their employees, compared with 2000? What about just the extra costs due to increased pay for teachers as they accrue years of tenure? And other things have increased as well such as electricity costs.

  17. It’s about time the zero growth issue and it’s unintended affects hit home.

    The young families I know, who work for UCD, have been purchasing in West Sacramento and Woodland when they’d rather be here, adding less traffic congestion with shorter commute and adding to the community of Davis. But they are priced out, even with the recent market declines.

    Unless Davis drops it’s NIMBYistic attitudes, this area will continue it’s downhill slide and you have no one but yourselves to blame.

  18. It’s about time the zero growth issue and it’s unintended affects hit home.

    The young families I know, who work for UCD, have been purchasing in West Sacramento and Woodland when they’d rather be here, adding less traffic congestion with shorter commute and adding to the community of Davis. But they are priced out, even with the recent market declines.

    Unless Davis drops it’s NIMBYistic attitudes, this area will continue it’s downhill slide and you have no one but yourselves to blame.

  19. It’s about time the zero growth issue and it’s unintended affects hit home.

    The young families I know, who work for UCD, have been purchasing in West Sacramento and Woodland when they’d rather be here, adding less traffic congestion with shorter commute and adding to the community of Davis. But they are priced out, even with the recent market declines.

    Unless Davis drops it’s NIMBYistic attitudes, this area will continue it’s downhill slide and you have no one but yourselves to blame.

  20. It’s about time the zero growth issue and it’s unintended affects hit home.

    The young families I know, who work for UCD, have been purchasing in West Sacramento and Woodland when they’d rather be here, adding less traffic congestion with shorter commute and adding to the community of Davis. But they are priced out, even with the recent market declines.

    Unless Davis drops it’s NIMBYistic attitudes, this area will continue it’s downhill slide and you have no one but yourselves to blame.

  21. There is a downside if development is not considered.

    For the benefit of schools

    Young families need more ecouragment to live in Davis and that means more affordable housing

    There also needs to be development that generates substantial sales tax revenue. Currently Davis relies on automobile sales for much of the sales tax (seems in conflict with the interest in being green). Davis needs something else to add to both the city and school programs. Encourage business that would benefit from being near the university

  22. There is a downside if development is not considered.

    For the benefit of schools

    Young families need more ecouragment to live in Davis and that means more affordable housing

    There also needs to be development that generates substantial sales tax revenue. Currently Davis relies on automobile sales for much of the sales tax (seems in conflict with the interest in being green). Davis needs something else to add to both the city and school programs. Encourage business that would benefit from being near the university

  23. There is a downside if development is not considered.

    For the benefit of schools

    Young families need more ecouragment to live in Davis and that means more affordable housing

    There also needs to be development that generates substantial sales tax revenue. Currently Davis relies on automobile sales for much of the sales tax (seems in conflict with the interest in being green). Davis needs something else to add to both the city and school programs. Encourage business that would benefit from being near the university

  24. There is a downside if development is not considered.

    For the benefit of schools

    Young families need more ecouragment to live in Davis and that means more affordable housing

    There also needs to be development that generates substantial sales tax revenue. Currently Davis relies on automobile sales for much of the sales tax (seems in conflict with the interest in being green). Davis needs something else to add to both the city and school programs. Encourage business that would benefit from being near the university

  25. I don’t disagree with the premise that we need more affordable housing for younger families. Along those lines the best way to produce that would be to provide housing for young faculty members to move into the city. A project like say, West Village.

    If the city would partner with the university to provide specifically for faculty and student housing, we could increase the amount of housing for particularly young faculty members who were just hired by the university. Those young faculty members are most likely to have young children and would then bring their young children to our district.

    Of course, this is a good idea, but why stop there? There are a lot of lower middle income service workers in Davis that I am sure would love to live in the city and not have to commute to their jobs.

    Why shouldn’t the city, the university and labor unions partner to create affordable housing for them as well? But don’t expect the progressives to support any project of this kind. The densities required would, you know, destroy the sense of community.

    New kinds of people, with families from different kinds of backgrounds, that’s always corrosive of the existing community bonds. It would be terrible to subject Davis to such a risk.

    –Richard Estes

  26. I don’t disagree with the premise that we need more affordable housing for younger families. Along those lines the best way to produce that would be to provide housing for young faculty members to move into the city. A project like say, West Village.

    If the city would partner with the university to provide specifically for faculty and student housing, we could increase the amount of housing for particularly young faculty members who were just hired by the university. Those young faculty members are most likely to have young children and would then bring their young children to our district.

    Of course, this is a good idea, but why stop there? There are a lot of lower middle income service workers in Davis that I am sure would love to live in the city and not have to commute to their jobs.

    Why shouldn’t the city, the university and labor unions partner to create affordable housing for them as well? But don’t expect the progressives to support any project of this kind. The densities required would, you know, destroy the sense of community.

    New kinds of people, with families from different kinds of backgrounds, that’s always corrosive of the existing community bonds. It would be terrible to subject Davis to such a risk.

    –Richard Estes

  27. I don’t disagree with the premise that we need more affordable housing for younger families. Along those lines the best way to produce that would be to provide housing for young faculty members to move into the city. A project like say, West Village.

    If the city would partner with the university to provide specifically for faculty and student housing, we could increase the amount of housing for particularly young faculty members who were just hired by the university. Those young faculty members are most likely to have young children and would then bring their young children to our district.

    Of course, this is a good idea, but why stop there? There are a lot of lower middle income service workers in Davis that I am sure would love to live in the city and not have to commute to their jobs.

    Why shouldn’t the city, the university and labor unions partner to create affordable housing for them as well? But don’t expect the progressives to support any project of this kind. The densities required would, you know, destroy the sense of community.

    New kinds of people, with families from different kinds of backgrounds, that’s always corrosive of the existing community bonds. It would be terrible to subject Davis to such a risk.

    –Richard Estes

  28. I don’t disagree with the premise that we need more affordable housing for younger families. Along those lines the best way to produce that would be to provide housing for young faculty members to move into the city. A project like say, West Village.

    If the city would partner with the university to provide specifically for faculty and student housing, we could increase the amount of housing for particularly young faculty members who were just hired by the university. Those young faculty members are most likely to have young children and would then bring their young children to our district.

    Of course, this is a good idea, but why stop there? There are a lot of lower middle income service workers in Davis that I am sure would love to live in the city and not have to commute to their jobs.

    Why shouldn’t the city, the university and labor unions partner to create affordable housing for them as well? But don’t expect the progressives to support any project of this kind. The densities required would, you know, destroy the sense of community.

    New kinds of people, with families from different kinds of backgrounds, that’s always corrosive of the existing community bonds. It would be terrible to subject Davis to such a risk.

    –Richard Estes

  29. Only 180 students lost costing 1million of four million? But what are the declining enrollment losses over the past few years and what is the cumulative effect over that time. This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it.

    There are other solutions to dealing with the excess capacity at the elementary level such as allowing interdistrict transfer. Too bad there is resistance to that as well. It seems that Davis has an ostrich mentality. Sadly sticking your head in the sand won’t result in fewer pink slips.

  30. Only 180 students lost costing 1million of four million? But what are the declining enrollment losses over the past few years and what is the cumulative effect over that time. This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it.

    There are other solutions to dealing with the excess capacity at the elementary level such as allowing interdistrict transfer. Too bad there is resistance to that as well. It seems that Davis has an ostrich mentality. Sadly sticking your head in the sand won’t result in fewer pink slips.

  31. Only 180 students lost costing 1million of four million? But what are the declining enrollment losses over the past few years and what is the cumulative effect over that time. This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it.

    There are other solutions to dealing with the excess capacity at the elementary level such as allowing interdistrict transfer. Too bad there is resistance to that as well. It seems that Davis has an ostrich mentality. Sadly sticking your head in the sand won’t result in fewer pink slips.

  32. Only 180 students lost costing 1million of four million? But what are the declining enrollment losses over the past few years and what is the cumulative effect over that time. This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it.

    There are other solutions to dealing with the excess capacity at the elementary level such as allowing interdistrict transfer. Too bad there is resistance to that as well. It seems that Davis has an ostrich mentality. Sadly sticking your head in the sand won’t result in fewer pink slips.

  33. Aaaaaarghhh!!!
    DJUSD didn’t “lose” 180 students this year!
    Total enrollment 2007-8, according to DJUSD: 8,606.
    Prior enrollment figures from the state Department of Education:
    2006-7: 8,647.
    2005-6: 8,537.
    2004-5: 8,642.
    2003-4: 8,705.
    2002-3: 8,827.
    2001-2: 8,760.
    2000-1: 8,642.

    The district had a decline of 41 total, districtwide. There were fewer, again, K-6, and a few more in 7-12 (depending on how DSIS breaks out, which isn’t indicated).

  34. Aaaaaarghhh!!!
    DJUSD didn’t “lose” 180 students this year!
    Total enrollment 2007-8, according to DJUSD: 8,606.
    Prior enrollment figures from the state Department of Education:
    2006-7: 8,647.
    2005-6: 8,537.
    2004-5: 8,642.
    2003-4: 8,705.
    2002-3: 8,827.
    2001-2: 8,760.
    2000-1: 8,642.

    The district had a decline of 41 total, districtwide. There were fewer, again, K-6, and a few more in 7-12 (depending on how DSIS breaks out, which isn’t indicated).

  35. Aaaaaarghhh!!!
    DJUSD didn’t “lose” 180 students this year!
    Total enrollment 2007-8, according to DJUSD: 8,606.
    Prior enrollment figures from the state Department of Education:
    2006-7: 8,647.
    2005-6: 8,537.
    2004-5: 8,642.
    2003-4: 8,705.
    2002-3: 8,827.
    2001-2: 8,760.
    2000-1: 8,642.

    The district had a decline of 41 total, districtwide. There were fewer, again, K-6, and a few more in 7-12 (depending on how DSIS breaks out, which isn’t indicated).

  36. Aaaaaarghhh!!!
    DJUSD didn’t “lose” 180 students this year!
    Total enrollment 2007-8, according to DJUSD: 8,606.
    Prior enrollment figures from the state Department of Education:
    2006-7: 8,647.
    2005-6: 8,537.
    2004-5: 8,642.
    2003-4: 8,705.
    2002-3: 8,827.
    2001-2: 8,760.
    2000-1: 8,642.

    The district had a decline of 41 total, districtwide. There were fewer, again, K-6, and a few more in 7-12 (depending on how DSIS breaks out, which isn’t indicated).

  37. “This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it. “

    It is not only NOT a serious problem, it is not even happening. District enrollment is virtually stable. Basically, we’ve got about 8600 – 8700 students (average 8670 since 2000), with a slight excess of facilities.

  38. “This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it. “

    It is not only NOT a serious problem, it is not even happening. District enrollment is virtually stable. Basically, we’ve got about 8600 – 8700 students (average 8670 since 2000), with a slight excess of facilities.

  39. “This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it. “

    It is not only NOT a serious problem, it is not even happening. District enrollment is virtually stable. Basically, we’ve got about 8600 – 8700 students (average 8670 since 2000), with a slight excess of facilities.

  40. “This is in fact a serious problem and it is linked even if the nimby’s don’t want to face it. “

    It is not only NOT a serious problem, it is not even happening. District enrollment is virtually stable. Basically, we’ve got about 8600 – 8700 students (average 8670 since 2000), with a slight excess of facilities.

  41. We do have some serious grandstanding going on over a few students increasing or decreasing, it would seem, according to the stats Don Shor posted.
    Could it possibly be there are some unstated agendas adding to the angst and controvery?
    Who wants to build a strip mall where Valley Oak now educates children? Or maybe a high-rise condo complex where the DJUSD now does business?