School district needs to cut nearly $900,000 from $28.5 mill plan |

School district needs to cut nearly $900,000 from $28.5 mill plan

The Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District must cut almost $900,000 from its 1999-2000 budget by June 30 to balance the spending plan and meet a state-mandated 3 percent reserve.

The Fiscal Review Committee, consisting of TTUSD educators, two board members, parents, community members, administration staff, representatives from the business community and a student, met last week to brainstorm priorities for possible cuts and revenue enhancements to reach the required 3 percent reserve.

The committee met with district staff to review the current financial summary for the budget and revisit recommendations made last fall.

Significant shortfall

“The bottom line is we are significantly short of coming up with a 3 percent reserve,” said Monty Folsom, TTUSD director of business services, as he presented a revised financial summary of the budget.

According the figures Folsom presented, with a budget of $28,564,802, the district faces a shortfall between revenue and expenditures of $21,975 and no reserve. Because the state requires a 3 percent reserve, which is $871,056, the budget in its current state must be cut by $893,031.

TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma said that in order for the county to accept the 1999-2000 budget, it must meet a 3 percent reserve. He said there are two options: one is to work immediately to make budget cuts to meet the reserve, or two would be to wait, get rejected for not meeting the reserve, and buy time until September to resubmit the budget.

“It’s time for us to bite the bullet and not be so optimistic and be conservative,” said Fiscal Review Committee member Roger Kahn, who recommended that they go ahead and make cuts now. “We can give back to programs that are cut if we come out ahead.”

Gemma said the district cannot rely on the state to come through with additional funding.

“I do think, and I could be wrong, that we should not look to the state to help us out. They are going to say ‘just balance your budget.’ We’re not here to blame. The fact is we have our cake and we want to eat it. We haven’t done everything, but we’ve done a lot of things this year,” said Gemma. He projected that by June 30 they will have some reserve, but not 3 percent.

“We just have too much work to do to assume we can just submit any old budget,” he said.

The committee was asked to brainstorm ideas for ways to increase the district’s revenue and prioritize what cuts to make. They came up with more than 25 ideas, and then voted on their top priorities. Possible cuts the committee cited included:

– One additional maintenance position ($35,000)

– One Tahoe-Truckee High School growth position ($40,000)

– Two custodian positions ($70,000)

– The aviation class taught at the airport to TTHS and North Tahoe High School students ($4,000)

– District office travel expense account for board members and administrators ($15,000)

– Special Education expansion ($45,000)

– Reduce administrative staffing at North Tahoe Middle School and NTHS ($30,000 to $50,000)

– Reduce general fund contribution to high school athletics ($100,000)

– Eliminate district technology coordinator position by one half time ($36,000)

Other priorities included:

– Ask school district employees to accept their Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) minus .5 percent ($100,000)

– Ask Excellence in Education Foundation for family contributions as a possible revenue increase ($100,000)

– Market TTUSD school programs to help bring students back from the charter school as a possible revenue increase ($80,000)

Trying to make budgets cuts is a challenging task for committee members.

“All of these are painful decisions that have to be cut. We will try to spread this pain across the board and not concentrate it in one area,” said TTUSD board member Karen Van Epps, who is also on the Fiscal Review Committee. “The board’s goal is to make changes that least impact the student. Whatever we have to do, we’re trying to reach the students with the least amount of impact. That’s hard when you’re trying to come up with more than $865,000 to help your budget.”

Cutting the high school athletics budget was discussed and will continue to be discussed at tonight’s board meeting. Van Epps said that if general fund contributions to high school athletics are cut by an additional $100,000, the athletic department would have to develop ways to generate more dollars from outside the budget.

Reducing the administrative staffing at NTMS and NTHS for next year will also be discussed at tonight’s board meeting.

Committee members will present their priorities to the board at tonight’s regular board meeting between 7 and 9. At the meeting, the board will give more direction to district staff on how to proceed with budget development, and a board workshop is scheduled for June 21 at 3:30 p.m. to refine their decision, according to Gemma.

On June 24, the 1999-2000 budget will be adopted by the board after a public hearing. All of these meetings will be held at the district office located on Donner Pass Road in Truckee.

For information on meeting times and dates, call the district office at 582-7600.

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