School district completes budget cuts

Kyle Magin
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE ” As administrators see a worst-case scenario deficit of $4 million looking more and more like a reality, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District completed their budget reductions for the 2009-10 school year Tuesday night.

About $3.7 million was chopped off of the upcoming year’s budget after months of reductions to teaching positions, school services and out-of-classroom expenditures.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Dickinson said the budget was as trimmed as it would get ” meaning if the deficit did come in at $4 million, the difference would need to come out of the district’s reserve fund.

The reserve funds, which are one-time only, should be used sparingly to make them last, Dickinson said.

“The concept behind using those one time funds is to cut it thin and use it over the span of four years,” Dickinson said.

He said the deficit could very well increase to $4 million because of a proposal last week by Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger that would decrease the amount of state funding for public transportation. From that alone, the district stands to lose about $900,000 in state funding.

Steve Jennings, district superintendent, said the budget recommendations must now be prepared as the district’s finalized budget, which will go before the board for approval on Wednesday, June 24.

The board caused a stir by recommending to purchase a software program to help institute its plan to have parents pay for kids to ride the bus. The program, supported by the company Zonar, allows students each a bus pass which scans each time they board and exit the school bus. Each card is implanted with GPS technology, allowing approved administrators to track students in the event one is lost, misses a bus, takes another bus or falls asleep on a bus.

Bill Hudson, a Truckee parent, skewered the board for even considering such an expenditure.

“I am appalled. I’m blown away you’re even considering this,” Hudson said. “We don’t need this. For us to even consider this is deplorable ” we don’t have the money.”

Nannette Rondeau, district transportation director, said some sort of software program was needed to implement the proposed parent-pay bussing system, in order to track payments and student ridership.

Trustee Bev Ducey defended the expenditure.

“It’s not just some little gadget we want to put on the busses,” Ducey said. “We do need some software.”

The Zonar software and cards were quoted at about $43,000, as compared the board’s other option, TransTraks, which would cost about $10,000 but wouldn’t include a system where students could be tracked.

The board approved the recommendation with the stipulation Zonar reduce the price. A Zonar representative present at the meeting stated a reduction could be worked out, but didn’t elaborate.

Rondeau said she expects to return to the board next week with the final price.

The board took action on a number of items Tuesday, which increased the budget reductions for next year from about $3.6 million to about $3.7 million.

Unanimously, the board approved the use of categorical funds to offset the costs of district administration and consolidated one vacant position with another filled position.

The move also added back two teachers ” one to serve as a district English Learner coordinator and another to serve as a community youth services coordinator. In all, the move is projected to save about $93,000 in district level administration costs to the general fund.

The board also approved ” again unanimously ” changes to its food service policy in order to generate about $50,000 in revenues for the school district.

The recommendation will provide free lunches to students who currently receive lunch at a reduced price and starts a breakfast program at Tahoe Lake Elementary. The decision generates revenue from federal support given to districts with large populations of students who receive free and reduced lunches.

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