Parents, teachers convene to discuss budget woes | SierraSun.com

Parents, teachers convene to discuss budget woes

Renee Shadforth

Parents are concerned with the quality of their children’s education. Faculty and staff are worried about what lies ahead for their employment.

But the only certainty – in an uneasy climate brought on by the proposed state budget cuts in education – is uncertainty, said Ralph Johnson, business manager for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, at a recent public forum on the budget.

More than 40 parents and teachers showed up for the two-hour meeting on Feb. 28 in the district boardroom. For about 90 minutes, Johnson gave a presentation on the state of the budget and what it means for the district. Bob Nehls, interim superintendent and Johnson’s predecessor as business manager, also interjected some information.

“We have to plan without knowing what [the governor and legislature] will do,” Johnson said, referring to the deadline on June 30 for the 2003-2004 district budget.

Because of the unpredictability of when, and if, the mid-year cuts will be made, district administration has continued their hiring freeze and has cut off spending for supplies and equipment.

This has some teachers concerned about ordering textbooks and supplies in the coming weeks for next year’s classes, especially, one teacher said, for the younger grade elementary teachers who use consumable books for their children.

Nehls also tried to dispel rumors that Measure A funding had been cut off.

However, one teacher commented, Measure A funding had been cut off at her site.

When the topic changed to layoffs, the discussion became slightly more personal, with employees inquiring about their individual situations.

“There is not a hard and fast rule,” Nehls said.

If district administrators do decide to layoff employees, certificated employees must be notified by March 15, according to the education code deadline.

“Are you asking if all the people here today are going to be here next year? I can’t say,” Nehls said.

However, Johnson and Nehls reiterated, they aren’t sure layoffs will be necessary at all.

Some parents offered up suggestions for generating extra revenue in the district.

“I know we’re building this big new middle school and we’re losing students. Can we look at selling the excess land?” one parent asked.

Next school year, enrollment numbers from a recent demographics study predict the district will suffer a 65-student average daily attendance (ADA) funding loss, equating to $303,556.

“A lot of school districts in the Bay Area are selling off surplus land,” the parent added.

If the numbers continue to fluctuate, Nehls said, the district might need the land they have right now in the future.

“But the district has looked at [selling land] as a possibility,” he said.

Another parent said there are many parents and community members interested in supporting another parcel tax to generate more revenue for the district.

“We could fill up this room with those people,” she said.

Several parents, wanting to know how the district has spent money before they agree to another parcel tax, asked to look at site-based and district expenditures from the 2002-2003 school year. Nehls told them to contact the district business office to request the documents.

As for the future, with the deadline approaching for the 2003-2004 district budget, Johnson said, the longer the state puts off making cuts, the more difficult it will be to know how to properly allocate expenditures and revenues.

“Nobody’s going to want to do what we have to do,” he said. “We’re not going to have adequate info. We have to do the best we can.”

The district facility department will hold a master plan meeting for the public on March 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the district boardroom. The department will discuss possible land usage and the latest enrollment demographic numbers. At the March 5 TTUSD board meeting, Johnson will present the interim budget report with financial data from the current school year. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the district boardroom.