My Turn: Answers to ‘Where does the money go?’
October 30, 2008
On behalf of the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District, we appreciate and recognize your questions as noted in the Sierra Sun article published Oct. 25 titled “Where does the money go?” We felt it important to respond to your questions.
Based on where you spent your high school years, you may be aware of the benefits of an outstanding campus and athletic facilities. We are hoping you have experienced the top notch quality of excellent facilities that exist at many schools in California, and elsewhere, on a first hand basis. We are hoping for your support of Measure U and the positive impact it will have on Truckee, our kids and local businesses such as the American Mail Center. As such, we wanted to take this opportunity to address the issues and questions you stated in the Sierra Sun.
Here are responses to your questions/comments:
The California lottery was touted as the savior of the California school system. Evidently not, as it has been stripped by our legislators.
Lottery income has been approximately 1.0 percent to 1.5 percent of the districts total general fund income, but as you mentioned there have been changes in school funding since its inception in 1985 that have lessened some of the flexibility the Lottery dollars originally brought to schools. Still, any funding is important. Lottery funds are dedicated to educational program expenses and instructional materials.
Measure U is a facilities bond and will not/cannot be used for educational program expenses.
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Regarding measures, S, L to name two, and others directed at supplementing school income: One of the often frustrating aspects of school funding is that almost all funding schools receive have different conditions attached in terms of how they can be spent. As a result, it is common to have one school program that has adequate funding, at the same time that others are destitute ” and there is no way to move funds between them.
Measure S (which is now Measure A) is a parcel tax that was approved by voters to provide funding for some of those destitute programs for which the state no longer provides funding. Some of these, like elementary PE and music, academic and college prep courses, librarians, counseling and nursing are only fading memories in many school districts. Our community has repeatedly approved this funding by a two-thirds majority, to keep these programs in our schools.
Sometimes there are good reasons for the segregation of funds. For instance, bond funds like Measure U can only be used for school facilities ” not salaries or operational costs. This guarantees voters that money will go to what was promised, and not be sidetracked by pressure to pay for “other things”. Bonds are the only way that new schools in this district, and most districts, have ever been built, going back to the first half of the 1900s.
Currently there is a $98 assessment for the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District and a $99.10 assessment for Sierra College on my property tax bill.
The $98 is Measure A, which is discussed above. Sierra College is not associated with TTUSD but that tax supports the construction of our new community college campus.
Also, as a business person in Truckee, I am constantly requested to donate to or buy advertising for different school activities such as the year book or the senior graduation night party or new band instruments and others. With all this, the school district is unable to pay teachers a decent wage, fix a leaking roof, or provide a safe playground for the students.
As mentioned above, over the last several years funding from the state has been substantially reduced and our facilities are nearly 60 years old. Throughout California, our local communities are faced with the choice of supporting some of the things that would be lost as a result of the lack of State funding and Proposition 13. Our District has not been able to continue funding everything that we once did.
However, many things that we are still able to do in the schools come as a result of support like the Excellence in Education foundation, or individual donations from the parents and community. Excellence in Education has provided funding for many programs over the last several years and has provided $350,000 that is utilized in the classrooms. Unfortunately, these contributions do not pay for a new facility. The only way to pay for a facility is to approve a bond.
Given high school facilities are the most expensive to build, these types of donations are not large enough to allow the District to build schools.
Find all the answers to more school finance questions at: http://www.sierrasun.com/rustypauli.