Draft Tahoe Truckee school district budget reduction plan calls for 24 teacher layoffs | SierraSun.com

Draft Tahoe Truckee school district budget reduction plan calls for 24 teacher layoffs

Jason ShuehSierra Sun

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m. ThursdayTRUCKEE andamp;#8212; Pressed by a January deadline to adopt its 2011-12 budget, school district officials have unveiled an initial plan to cover a looming deficit that includes a suggested reduction of 24 teachers and five other staff members.The Wednesday Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board meeting andamp;#8212; which lasted until 10:30 p.m. and was attended by a slew of teachers, parents and staff members andamp;#8212; showcased a presentation by Superintendent of Finances Steve Dickinson, who reminded everyone that reduced property tax revenues are forcing the district to trim $2.25 million from next fiscal year’s budget, cuts that must be made by January 2011 in order to notify teachers and staff of potential layoffs between March and May of next year.Within the draft of potential budget reductions andamp;#8212; which Dickinson said was generated from feedback by administrators and community workshops conducted in 2009 when the school district had to cut $3.8 million andamp;#8212; $590,000 would be cut from non-classroom areas such as transportation, food services and district administration vacancies; also, three full-time equivalent positions would be cut from clerical positions, with two full-time positions cut from custodial services.Suggested reductions for classroom areas total $1.72 million, generated by laying off 15 full-time elementary teachers and nine secondary teachers at middle and high schools in Truckee and North Tahoe.Dickinson said in a Thursday interview that teaching positions were given the majority of potential cuts due to their larger percentage of expenses. Furthermore, within the draft plan, $80,000 has been suggested to be cut from the district’s unfilled superintendent of curriculum position.Even larger cuts were avoided, Dickinson said, due to the Obama administration’s one-time federal stimulus funding to save classroom jobs andamp;#8212; the school district received $750,000 out of the $26 billion federal aid package.Reserving his comments for the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Superintendent Steve Jennings said the process requires discussion and time to sink in for both the community and the district.andamp;#8220;I have to say this is not an easy conversation for the administrators,andamp;#8221; Jennings said. andamp;#8220;These are not easy times.andamp;#8221;

Dickinson and trustees emphasized the proposed cuts should be perceived as suggestions, far from finalized and subject to change, depending upon negotiations with the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, the local teacher’s union.andamp;#8220;This is an alarming first step. The first viewing of this document is very unnerving,andamp;#8221; said Area 2 Trustee Kirsten Livak.Livak said she hopes the draft doesn’t hamper negotiations with the union as the district progresses toward a final budget.andamp;#8220;I think this is something that could be easily misinterpreted as something that could obstruct the negotiation process and really create a lot of fear and break down the trust we’ve worked so hard to build,andamp;#8221; she said.Dickinson agreed and cautioned audience members to use the financial adversity to galvanize the district, rather than pulling it apart though internal quarrel.andamp;#8220;Going through our budget reduction process is prime for people to go head-to-head, department against department, elementary against secondary, whatever, pitting different sections of our school community against each other,andamp;#8221; Dickinson said. andamp;#8220;Yet, it’s also a great opportunity not to let that happen. The … concern is that we come out of it still as a good, strong district.andamp;#8221;In a Thursday interview, Jon Halvorsen, TTEA co-president, said he will work side by side with the district to make sure a minimum number of teachers and staff are laid off; he said he is already working with the district to devise alternate plans that would, at the very least, reduce layoffs.andamp;#8220;There is a really big difference this time than last time, and I would say it is that the district has less revenue than it did last year,andamp;#8221; Halvorsen said.Last year, Halvorsen said, the district had more revenue to spend, and the resulting layoffs were a result of unbalanced fiscal management, where as this year the situation is a direct result of the economy.Forty teachers were issued pink slips in 2009, TTUSD officials confirmed.Future Area 1 Trustee Kim Szczurek, who takes her seat in December, said the school district is forced to bear hard budget deadlines that aren’t always productive to building internal or external relationships. She called on teachers and parents Wednesday night to help spearhead the effort in solving the budget crisis.andamp;#8220;I would love it if we could work together … if we let it be divisive, it’s the kids who lose,andamp;#8221; Szczurek said.Dickinson said unity will be desperately needed within the district since property tax revenues are expected to drop further, calling the district to cut an additional $1.75 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year to maintain reserves.