A $2 million question: TTUSD ponders use for funds | SierraSun.com

A $2 million question: TTUSD ponders use for funds

An unexpected windfall from the state budget is posing a dilemma of possibilities – how to spend another $2 million in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

“It’s unprecedented in my career – 27 years – that so much discretionary money has come to the district at such short notice,” said TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma.

Persistent requests by educators and parents for more money without strings were answered in Gov. Gray Davis’ May revision of his budget proposal. It included $1.8 billion in unrestricted funds, which boosted per pupil spending closer to the national average.

Those discretionary funds also will be closely watched by the public to see how local school districts will spend it, Gemma added.

“If we give it all to salaries, which we could easily do, I think we will never again see this kind of trust in us,” he said.

To help the TTUSD Board of Trustees formulate what will now be a $30,658,000 budget for 2000-2001, Gemma has planned a series of public meetings to discuss how the money should be spent.

The first will be Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at North Tahoe High School. Those will be followed by meetings in Truckee Thursday, June 1, at 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Tahoe Truckee High School and Saturday, June 3, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Glenshire Elementary School.

Gemma is also asking district staff, teachers and classified employees about their priorities and will hold a special board workshop as well.

The superintendent’s workshops will follow the format of special workshops held in October 1998 when Gemma explained the distrtict’s fiscal crisis and asked the public which expenditures should be cut.

“Instead of the question ‘what should be cut?’ we can ask ‘what should come back?'” Gemma said.

He explained that the district would like to reinstate some of things deleted two years ago, including custodians, a maintenance worker and classroom instructional supplies. There are also other increased costs in the budget just to continue some current programs.

If some of the discretionary money is spent on salaries, then not as much is left for other choices, he said.

He said the leadership of the teacher and classified employees unions have agreed that some of the discretionary money should be spent on programs for students.

“The question is how much?” Gemma said.

In some districts across the state, all of the extra state money must be spent on teacher salaries.

“Tahoe-Truckee does not have a contract with language that requires us to give it all to salaries,” Gemma said.

In the three workshops next week, Gemma said he will explain the district’s finances, its needs and some priorities.

Then he will ask for parents and community members to make suggestions.

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