My Turn: School district needs your input for budget cuts | SierraSun.com

My Turn: School district needs your input for budget cuts

Steve Jennings
Superintendent of Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District

News about the economic crisis of the world, nation and California is certainly bleak. It has been almost 30 years since we have faced a situation this dire and a quick recovery doesn’t appear to be imminent. I attended a conference last week put on by the California School Board Association and the information shared about the impact on education in our state was not positive. Unfortunately TTUSD will not be spared in this situation.

Recently, Mike Genest, the Director of the Department of Finance, issued a strong warning about the state’s dire cash situation. He indicated that, as bad as the budget outlook is, the cash situation is even worse. He shared that the state will have exhausted its ability to borrow from its various special funds by the end of the year and that a $7 billion to $9 billion cash shortage is predicted for July 2009. He predicted that, under this scenario, no state program will be spared cuts, including education.

At a recent joint Assembly and Senate meeting Genest; Mac Taylor, the Legislative Analyst; John Chiang, the State Controller; and Bill Lockyer, the State Treasurer all painted a grim picture of the state’s fiscal situation. They estimated a two-year budget shortfall of $28 billion and, if no corrective action is taken, the state would face operating shortfalls of $22 billion annually.

Experts predict the situation is so severe that massive cuts and increasing revenue (taxes) will be required. K-12 education makes up the largest share of the state budget and cannot avoid sharing in the cuts.

TTUSD receives about 40 percent of our funding from the state and federal governments and 60 percent from property taxes. We are extremely concerned about the impact the economy might have on property tax collections and hope the projections we built for the 2008/2009 budget will not fall short. In addition, our expenses continue to rise dramatically due primarily to increased employee costs.

As a public agency in California we have an obligation to take immediate action to prepare for budget cuts. All indications are that we can expect mid-year 08/09 reductions. This creates a real challenge in that much of our spending for the year has already taken place and laws limit our ability to make staffing reductions after the school year has started. It is still early in the state budget development process but our projection for next year is that we may need to make reductions of up to $2 million, or almost 5 percent of our budget.

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As we embark on the budget development process, it is our plan to solicit input from parents, community and staff through a series of meetings held at each school site. These meetings will be conducted shortly after the holiday break and promoted through the media and school newsletters and website postings.

We hope that interested individuals will be able to attend one of the sessions. Doing so will allow you to hear a thorough explanation of our current and projected budget situations and allow the opportunity for input.