Schools face more fiscal hits | SierraSun.com

Schools face more fiscal hits

Andrew CristanchoSierra Sun

Already faced with possible budget reductions from the state and a $1.2 million obligation to a neighboring county, district officials are now grappling with another fiscal burden.Officials within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District are projecting a $625,000 cut in its Special Education Local Plan Area funding beginning next year, according to an April 23 budget workshop presentation given by Assistant Superintendent of Business Earl Wammack.However, the reduction will not affect special education programming, said the districts Director of Special Education, Corine Harvey.Federal law mandates special education programs, Harvey said.I cannot cut my programs, I can look at doing them more efficiently, she said.The more than half-million dollar reduction will need to come out of the budgets general fund nothing new to school financing, she said.Special education has never been fully funded, Harvey said. Every district has to give local contributions to run the programs.Because of the districts relative geographic isolation, school officials use more money from the general fund than districts located in more metropolitan areas that have better access to county and state services, according to Board of Trustees President Kristy Olk.Cuts are proposed to hit all of Californias 124 special education programs. The reduction proposed for Tahoe-Truckee is 6.5 percent, according to Wammack.But, next years anticipated $600,000 hit is not the fault of the statewide reductions, Harvey said, it is because of a restructuring of the way the local special education programs pay money to the district.Tahoe Truckee is a member of Placer Countys program, which has twenty members including the Placer County Office of Education, said the offices Superintendent Gayle Garbolino-Mojica. The funding restructure was voted on and approved by the 20-member special education board in February, she said. Although talks regarding the restructure have been going on for about three years, she said.Besides the draw on the general fund, Garbolino-Mojica explained, all special education funding for Tahoe Truckee is funneled through the county program.The news of the special education reduction comes while the district is still grappling with a separate funding issue. In early March, Tahoe-Truckee officials received a letter notifying them of their obligation to pay $1.2 million for two charter schools in the district. Because of the districts basic aid designation it is obligated to assist the funding of the charter schools that were approved by the Nevada County Office of Education.Now faced with a nearly $2 million reduction to revenue next year, the district braces for the May revision of the state budget. But Tahoe Truckee Unified Superintendent Steve Jennings was cautiously optimistic about the districts fiscal resources.Very few districts could take a $2 million hit and still be solvent, he said. Although, he added, he would like to see the district increase its reserve funds.Eight Placer County school districts will experience a reduction in special education funding, Jennings said, while some may see an increase.