Discussions begin on 2013-14 Tahoe/Truckee schools budget

Margaret Moran

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Potential price increases to Tahoe Truckee Unified School District bus passes and student meals were among suggestions officials offered during a preliminary 2013-14 budget discussion this week.

With little to no outside funding, the cost to provide transportation and food services “encroaches” upon the district’s general operating fund, which goes toward education programming, said TTUSD Superintendent Rob Leri, at Wednesday evening’s district board meeting. The budgeted encroachment for transportation this fiscal school year is roughly $2.6 million; for food services, it’s about $268,000, he said in a follow-up interview.

“We do regularly take a look at what that encroachment is and ways we could mitigate that by reducing services, increasing the fees, changing the way we operate, looking at staffing levels,” Leri said.

While some of those options and others were suggested Wednesday by trustees, district staff and community members during a discussion on ways to decrease each service’s future encroachment, no board action was taken.

Nanette Rondeau, director of transportation, suggested a fee increase for bus passes. The regular rate for an annual bus pass is $160, with sibling passes given a 60 percent discount, making them $65.

“A lot of districts have moved away from that sibling discount as a way to generate more revenue,” she said.

One option Rondeau suggested was to give sibling passes only a 25 percent discount, making them $120, while keeping the regular annual pass at $160. The other options included charging either $200 for an annual pass and $150 for a sibling pass; $225 and $168; or $250 and $187.

“I would encourage you to consider that middle class family who is carrying the weight of those annual passes,” said parent Eve McEneaney.

The total number of bus passes issued for the 2012-13 school year is 3,093, with 1,269 pass holders paying the annual price, while 82 are paying a reduced price and 1,620 are paying nothing due to family income, according to Rondeau’s presentation.

“In my opinion it would lower the miles a lot if the ones that are free or reduced went to the schools in their zone,” said a parent and bus driver in the audience. “They don’t pay, yet they go from Truckee Elementary to the lake or Kings Beach to Tahoe City … it seems like a lot of extra miles for people who aren’t contributing.”

Kat Soltanmorad, director of food services, also suggested increasing the full price for breakfast and lunch meals in the schools by either 25 cents or 50 cents in light of increases in food costs, labor costs and other expenses. The current full-price cost for breakfast in all schools is $1.75, while lunch costs $3.25 in elementary school and $3.50 in middle and high school.

The district also offers reduced priced or free meals to students who qualify. The number of students eligible for free meals has risen from 899 in December 2007 to 1,533 in December 2012, according to her presentation. The number of students who can pay full price has dropped from 3,918 in December 2007 to 2,197 in December 2012.

Soltanmorad also noted the potential loss of revenue through the district’s reduced meal waiver program, approved by the board in 2010, which waives the 30 cent fee for breakfast and 40 cent fee for lunch.

“The 70 cents that we are saving for our families, we are using as part of our encroachment,” she said. “That could definitely be a source of revenue and remove the burden on the encroachment.”

Another option Soltanmorad suggested is looking into vending machines that would offer health snacks, citing Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s purchase of two vending machines last year, which generated $13,000 in profits by the end of the school year.

“We’re trying to balance transportation, provide food service, getting kids educated by having teachers in the classrooms, snow removal, etc.,” said board president Kim Szczurek. “… How do we make that all balance together?”

“I would encourage the public definitely to throw out some options because there’s good thoughts out there,” added board member Dianna Driller.

Links will be placed on the district’s website,, where the public can provide feedback on possible fee increases and offer other suggestions.

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