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New school budget ‘conservative’

Amanda Butler, Sierra Sun

Around this time every year, Bob Nehls, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s director of business services, notices a few more gray hairs.

Nehls is in charge of putting together the district’s budget. But with declining enrollment, Nehls has had to become a little more creative with his resources.

“The district enrollment has declined over the last couple years, which has a significant impact on revenue limit funding,” said Nehls, in his budget recommendation to the board. “As a result, revenue limit dollars will be approximately $675,000 less in the budgeted year as compared to the current year.”

That figure will be offset to a certain extent by a 4 percent increase in the cost of living allowance (COLA) provided by Governor Gray Davis’ state budget, but is still a substantial reduction in funding that Nehls admits was hard to compensate for.

The 2001-2002 proposed budget includes a total revenue of $32,005,412 and a total expenditure of $32,215,366. That’s compared with last year’s total revenue of $30,573,386 and total expenditures of $29,532,739.

This year’s board recommended reserves will total $1,276,403.

“This (budget) is a plan to keep providing the same level of services to students,” said Nehls. “But budgets are only plans, they are based upon assumptions … if things change you have to revise.”

Nehls went on to say that the proposed budget was fairly conservative, with a focus on setting aside enough money for increasing energy, utility and transportation costs.

“The picture for 2001-2002 is quite a contrast to the economic picture and budget presented by the state in the 2000-2001 school year,” said Nehls. “The previous year was one of the best ever for public education in California the district was able to fund significant employee pay increases.”

Nehls goes on to say in his statement that the uncertain future of California’s public utility companies will have a major impact on school budgets and leave “very large unknown variables that may affect public education in the budget year.”

“At the beginning of the year, no one anticipated that energy would become the crisis that it is today,” said Nehls.

To prepare for the energy price increases, the district’s budget sets aside an extra $275,000 for the upcoming year’s energy costs.

“The governor is asking districts to save 10 percent in energy costs,” said Nehls. “That’s going to require a major effort, but if we can save that 10 percent, that money will go back into the budget.”

Other budget revenue included lottery income, which will total about $590,000 for the 2001-2002 school year.

Special education funding was increased in the budget recommendation by $86,000.

Kindergarten through third grade class size reductions will also be covered by the 3.8 percent COLA increase. The fact that fewer of those classes will be offered due to declining enrollment will also help decrease the appropriation by about $45,000.

Nehls said that the new budget called for the reduction in staff by about 10 teachers, but said that retirements will probably prevent layoffs (see story below).

The new budget was expected to be approved at the June 27 meeting of the TTUSD board, which was planned to be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday after press time.


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