Tahoe Truckee School Board adopts 09-10 budget

Kyle Magin
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; The Tahoe Truckee School Board unanimously approved its budget Wednesday night, acknowledging the $3.7 million in reductions it made and#8212; sometimes painfully over early months of this year and#8212; are just the start.

Nearly two weeks ago the school district learned it may need to forfeit an additional $2.6 million to the state in order to preserve its basic aid status. Basic aid districts, the minority in California, receive a majority of their funding from local property taxes, while normal or and#8220;revenue limitand#8221; districts receive most of their funding from the state.

and#8220;I was personally devastated and frustrated after the pain we went through to make these cuts,and#8221; said Board President Kristy Olk. and#8220;To think we have to make further cuts is beyond belief, it’s really difficult and painful.and#8221;

The 2009-2010 budget approved Wednesday includes $3.7 million in cuts and#8212; close to an earlier district worse-case budget prediction of $4 million. Cuts include teacher layoffs, increases in transportation costs and reductions in the non-teacher workforce of custodians and teaching aids.

Parents Wednesday urged the board to focus on the budget and repeal the controversial reconfiguration of the district’s lakeside schools.

The reconfiguration moves a number of grades between schools and designated Kings Beach Elementary as a K-3 Spanish Immersion school and Tahoe Lake Elementary as an English K-3 school. Its genesis and approval took place over many of the same meetings as the budget reduction process, causing a call for a recall of the three board members who approved it and#8212; Olk, Bev Ducey and Bill Kraus.

and#8220;What’s difficult to take is how the budget situation has been intermingled with the reconfiguration of the educational model,and#8221; said Stephanie Bacon, during public comment. and#8220;We ask for a delay of that model.and#8221;

Ducey and Kraus said the model is the best way forward for a district struggling with academic performance.

and#8220;Our model is exactly what we need in these fiscal times,and#8221; Ducey said, adding the model provides more time for extra instruction to struggling students, and enrichment time for students who are ahead of their peers.

Kraus, responding to a member of the audience who said the board’s goal should be a balanced budget, disagreed, saying education comes first, while the budget is a board constraint.

and#8220;Our goal is to provide the best educational system possible within those constraints, and we have to be better than we’ve shown over the past few years,and#8221; Kraus said. and#8220;We need to move forward with the best educational system we can.and#8221;

A number of audience members also expressed concerns with the adopted budget, namely two sections and#8212; travel and conference expenses and consulting expenses, both projected to grow in 2009-2010.

Steve Dickinson, assistant superintendent of finance, said the numbers in each of those categories aren’t projected to grow; rather they serve as placeholders for flexible categorical funds. Dickinson said there is a strong possibility the district won’t see the funds because of the state’s budget quagmire. If the funds do remain, however, Dickinson said the board would need to re-allocate those funds to other district spending areas.

and#8220;We certainly are not planning on spending that much in these areas,and#8221; Dickinson said.

At the end of the meeting, Ducey said the board should immediately focus on the next round of budget cuts and#8212; namely the $2.6 million the district may cede to the state, though no action to accept the funds has been taken by the California legislature.

and#8220;I can’t imagine they won’t want to take our money,and#8221; Ducey said.

The board set its next budget workshop for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 22.

The Tahoe Truckee Education Association, the union which represents the districts teachers, hinted at possible legal action Wednesday.

Beth Curtis, union counsel, said the district needs to fill the positions of teachers who would be on temporary leave next year from its list of laid off teachers.

She said for the district to leave those positions unfilled would violate an agreement reached with the district when it laid off about 15 percent of its workforce in May because it would, in effect, leave more teachers out of a job than the agreement originally read.

John Halvorsen, TTEA vice president, said about three teachers go on leave next year.

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