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Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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The Gilroy Unified School District received a positive certification for its interim budget over the next year, meaning it will meet its financial obligations for this fiscal year and the next two.

However, with declining enrollment and economic uncertainty brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, cuts need to be made in the near future to ensure the district remains solvent, the Board of Education was advised Dec. 17.

According to Alvaro Meza, assistant superintendent of business services and chief business official for Gilroy Unified, the district’s general fund is expected to have a reserve of a little more than 15 percent, not taking into account contract negotiations with employee groups or unforeseen expenditures of reopening schools.

The district received $9.8 million in federal pandemic relief funds, but $1.3 million is now left, according to Meza. Funds were used toward purchasing personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, ventilation improvements and other items.

A significant drop in meal participation due to the pandemic has diminished revenue for the food service fund, as the district receives reimbursement from the number of meals it serves, Meza said, adding that the district went from serving more than 11,600 meals daily pre-Covid-19 to now 3,300.

As such, the district must pull $1.4 million from its reserve to replenish the fund.

Also concerning to district officials is the steady decline of enrollment. After reaching a high of 11,483 during the 2016-17 school year, it is projected to be 10,853 during the 2020-21 school year, a loss of 282 over the previous year.

In 2019, the board voted to close Antonio Del Buono Elementary School due to declining enrollment. The school in north Gilroy, now used as a Covid-19 testing site, shut its doors at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The district is looking at a “revenue cliff” beginning in 2022, Meza said, due to declining average daily attendance and the state funds that are tied to it.

He suggested the board begin to make “placeholder cuts” of $1 million for each of the next few fiscal years beginning in 2021.

“For what we know now, these revenues are going down,” Meza said. “They’re not increasing. There’s no reason to believe they will be increasing.”

Also during the Dec. 17 meeting, new and returning board members Mark Good, Melissa Nicholson Aguirre, Michelle Nelson and James Pace were sworn in following the certification of the Nov. 3 vote.

The board nominated Good to continue as president, with member Linda Piceno as vice president.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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