School district adopts budget: Tahoe Truckee will take a $1.9 million hit

Renee Shadforth

There weren’t any great surprises in the 2003-2004 budget for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. Yet the cuts and reallocations, running $1.9 million deep, will put a crimp on the district, individual school sites and in the classroom.

“All of the items on this list are changes. They’re changes from the status quo,” said Ralph Johnson, business manager and co-assistant superintendent for district, of the list representing cuts and reallocations to the district’s budget.

The 6 percent reduction in Tahoe Truckee’s budget comes in the wake of the California state budget crisis, which proposes to cut at least $2 billion from the state education budget.

Transportation, one of the greatest burdens on the district’s general fund, will take a $78,000 hit, which means no summer school transportation funding, bringing in the points of service and reductions in vehicle maintenance and support.

Staffing constituted a big-ticket reduction, totaling $469,000. Because of Tahoe Truckee’s declining enrollment, the district didn’t have to fill 3.5 vacated positions. Also, district administrators were able to beef up class sizes at schools with declining enrollment, like Sierra Mountain Middle School, where there were fewer students in each class than the district’s established student-to-teacher ratio.

“In the past, some of our classes were smaller than the 29:1 teacher staffing ratio,” said Don Beno, principal at Sierra Mountain Middle School, adding that in some cases, classes had as few as 25 students.

The middle school will have 2.4 fewer teachers in the 2003-2004 school year, due to a retirement and some shifting within the district. Beno said the changes in his staff will enable him to keep his classes at a 29-student average, although some classrooms may have more students.

Although the district did tighten its staffing, Tahoe Truckee’s class size ration limits have not been increased in the budget crisis.

“I think you’re not going to find that in many districts throughout the state,” Johnson said.

Individual site administrators will also have to cut corners in ways that may have a stronger effect on students. Principal Beno said he’s had to look at reducing some of his programming, without harming electives and instructional material.

“In the past, we’ve been able to put a fairly good amount of money into technology,” he said. “That will be an area we have to look into (making cuts).”

Staff development and extra supply funding will also be reduced at Sierra Mountain, Beno said.

It’s all the effect of the state’s multi-year debt, which could mean that 2003-2004 will only be the beginning of Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s cuts and reallocations in years to come.

However, as always, Johnson’s district-budget cloud has a silver lining – he’s trying to remain optimistic about coming years.

“The national economy is showing signs of recovery that may bode well for ’04-’05,” he said. “We’re hoping there is a chance.”

View the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s 2003-2004 budget – in its user-friendly format – at the district office at 11839 Donner Pass Road.

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