Measure A budget approved | SierraSun.com

Measure A budget approved

Renee Shadforth
Sierra Sun

A new and very different Measure A budget has taken shape for year 17 of the voter-approved parcel tax.

The new budget, approved by the school board Wednesday, funds $3.4 million in programs in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District in the 2005-06 school year. It takes into consideration equability among grade levels using new formulas and gives school sites more flexibility with Measure A dollars.

In the past, critics of the parcel tax have said the Measure A citizens review committee does not fund schools equally and that the measure’s funding practices need to be reviewed.

Even members of the citizens review committee have agreed.

“There was no rhyme or reason for what each school got,” said Bev Ducey, who sits on the citizens review committee, the group that oversees Measure A funds and makes sure expenses are in line with educational categories voters supported.

Ducey said previous budgets were developed out of need from individual schools over the years. Part of the challenge in developing a Measure A budget, she said, is that the equivalent of 42 full-time teacher salaries are funded by the parcel tax. This means that a music teacher at one elementary school could have more tenure ” thus, cost more money ” than a music teacher at another elementary school.

So, disparities in teacher pay can lead to unequal funding among school sites.

The new budget takes into consideration the number of students at each school site and funds schools based on how many teachers it takes to teach Measure A’s programs to those students.

Some schools, especially those with declining enrollment, will receive less funding as a result of the new formula.

“Yeah, it’s gonna hurt, but it’s fair, and it’s leveled the playing field,” Ducey said in a telephone interview before Wednesday’s meeting.

Previously, Measure A operated on a four-year budget. Now, the citizens review committee will review the budget each year and adjust formulas for new needs in schools.

Though Measure A has more than a $600,000 reserve for the 2005-06 school year, by year 21 of the tax the budget for Measure A will be in the red, according to current Measure A budget projections.

In the next couple of years, the Measure A committee may be looking to the school district’s budget ” which will likely grow as it changes to basic aid ” to take back more than $500,000 in programs the parcel tax has funded for the district in the last decade or so.

“We’ve been a lifeboat for the district,” said Johanna Monforte, chairwoman of the citizens review committee, in a telephone interview before Wednesday night’s meeting. “Throughout the state of California, programs have been dissolving, and Measure A has been able to take on some of those programs for the district so they won’t feel the pain in the classroom.”

Programs that have been given a boost by Measure A for the district include an elementary school librarian, instructional supplies and counseling expenses. It has also helped with class size reduction at the elementary school level.

“We do have the lowest class size reduction (among comparable districts) in the state because of Measure A,” Ducey said.

Traditionally, the Measure A citizens review committee under-spends on programs in the first years of the cycle, and then ” accounting for increases in teacher salary and benefits ” overspends in the final years of the cycle.

In the March election, Measure A ” which was previously a four-year parcel tax that ran for 16 years ” was approved for a seven-year cycle at $98 per parcel.