At a meeting at the ACHS Library Monday night, Superintendent Dr. Rosanna Mucetti laid out a bleak picture for the future of Napa Valley Unified. Citing declining enrollment (thus, less money for the school district), Dr. Mucetti spent much of the evening trying to dampen the frustration among the audience, including myself. She empathized with our disappointment…although I have to say that disappointment is not the word I would use.

Despite my frustration, I recognize that there are serious hurdles to overcome as we move forward.

  • For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the district will have to overcome a $7M structural budget deficit. This is largely being done to cuts in non-certified staff but will – at some point – necessarily include credentialed staff as well.
  • The NVUSD credit rating has been downgraded twice in the recent past which makes borrowing more expensive. The District will have to borrow approximately $35M this year. This is not uncommon and is considered a short-term loan which will be repaid once the State releases it’s money to the districts; however, words credit rating makes it more expensive to borrow.
  • There has been a 30% increase in pension liability for school districts under Gov. Brown’s move towards more local control and funding.
  • The reserve has dropped from 8% in 2014 to 3.6% this year. In order for a school district to remain solvent, they must carry at least 3% in reserves each year.

Dr. Mucetti made a compelling case for declining middle school enrollment – projecting out to 2026. Once NVUSD shares the presentation on their website, I will make sure to link to it so that you can see for yourself. Declining enrollment appears to hold true even taking into account the proposed Watson Ranch Development and residential units along Broadway once the Specific Plan comes to fruition. One thing that is clear, however, is that prior school boards and administrations did not do their do diligence.

Dr. Mucetti cited lack of building starts (i.e. new construction) and lack of turnover in current housing to help bolster declining enrollment. A deeper look at the numbers for current turnover in American Canyon may give greater credence to concern over declining enrollment.

Raw number of sales from 2014 – 2019

One year does not make a trend but the numbers for the first third of 2019 are startling. Sales are down by almost a quarter year-over-year. Between May ’18 through April ’19 pending sales are down 12.6%. Fewer families will be moving in. It’s important to note that what’s good for the goose (i.e. the real estate market and higher housing prices) isn’t necessarily good for the gander (in this case the school district).

With likely continued declining enrollment, it does not seem feasible for the city to add a second middle school. Or if there is a second middle school, it seems unlikely that it will actually open until there are enough students to ensure that it won’t run an operating deficit.

One of the alternatives proposed was to use the Measure H bond money for facility improvements towards the current Middle School (replacing portables with actual buildings) and throwing a little bit of money at Donaldson Way – money that should have come to both schools regardless. Those of us who campaigned for Measure H knew that the district was not going to be able to fund everything that it wanted, but this feels like an offering for something that was already – or at least should have been – on the table.

There will be many more meetings (I hope) going forward. It remains to be seen how all of this will shake out but I am hopeful that American Canyon schools will see the money that was promised to us.

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