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School district may have layoffs

Ronnie Lynn, Sierra Sun

Declining enrollment and a tightening budget may force the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to lay off two teachers after this school year.

That’s actually good news.

In March, the district originally anticipated cutting about seven full-time teaching positions, but attrition, retirements and leaves of absence since then have reduced that number to two.

District officials hope that by mid-summer, the same kinds of staffing changes will naturally reduce the teaching staff by two, eliminating the need to lay off anyone.

“These problems tend to solve themselves,” Assistant Superintendent Jim Abbott said. “We’re optimistic the last two will hopefully be back.”

If not, the two positions to be cut will be determined by teachers’ seniority and credential level, he said.

The staffing cuts come as a result of declining enrollment, which will eventually mean a reduction in state funding.

California funds schools based on their Average Daily Attendance for the prior school year, allocating about $4,500 per ADA in Tahoe Truckee Unified. According to the ADA report that the school district submitted to the state in April, a report that essentially determines the following year’s state funding, this year’s ADA dropped by 162, or 3.7 percent.

That means a loss of roughly $730,000 in state funding next year.

“If enrollment’s going down, ADA’s going down,” district Business Manager Bob Nehls said. “You have to make reductions in the budget.”

It’s not the first time.

The district’s ADA fell 3.6 percent during the 1999-2000 school year and 6.7 percent the year before.

School officials attribute the declining enrollment to two primary factors: Prosser Creek Charter School’s opening in 1998 and the relatively high cost of living in Truckee and North Tahoe.

“What I keep hearing is that a lot of young families are having a difficult time with the economic conditions, and so they might be moving to Reno or Verdi,” Nehls said.

By contrast, public school enrollment in all of Placer County has grown at a steady 3 to 4 percent since 1993, except for dramatic spurts of 8 percent in 1994, 5.8 percent in 1996 and 6.5 percent in 1998.

Most of the growth is occurring in south Placer County communities such as Roseville, Eureka, Dry Creek and Rocklin. Placer County Superintendent of Schools Alfred “Bud” Nobili estimates districts serving those areas will need to hire 150 to 200 new teachers in part to accommodate increasing enrollment.

As the county and district enrollment trends continue to diverge, Nobili and his staff in the Placer County Office of Education have taken note.

The office advises the county’s 18 school districts on matters of finance and policy and also acts as a liaison between the districts and the California Department of Education.

After reviewing the Tahoe Truckee Unified’s second interim report, Nobili wrote district superintendent Pat Gemma a letter saying “Although we have approved the second interim report, we are concerned about the declining enrollment and deficit spending level of the district.”

He added that the county office of education also worried about how the effects of the energy crisis and increased medical-benefits costs might exacerbate an already tight budget.

“Basically we’re saying to the district, ‘You’re OK, however, for future spending, you better give consideration to the fact that you are in a stage of declining enrollment,” Nobili said.

That consideration is coming in the form of staffing cutbacks, a measure Nobili said is appropriate.

“Staffing is one of the things where they have more control,” Nobili said. “Here at the county, we are being very conservative on our estimates on personnel. And with the uncertainty with state funding and the energy crisis – those are major hits – we don’t know where that’s going to be in six months or a year.

“It really is important that a district does a real good analysis on its ADA – the other factors have made it more critical this year than in previous years.”


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