The Tahoe Truckee school district’s $2 million problem | SierraSun.com

The Tahoe Truckee school district’s $2 million problem

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; In a startling announcement this week, officials said the regionand#8217;s fickle real estate economy will put the school district in a $2 million hole that will come directly from the districtand#8217;s robust reserve account and#8212; and itand#8217;s all but certain that some form of internal cuts are on the way.

Steve Dickinson, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District superintendent of finances, said the original estimate for the current 2010-11 school year was a 1.5 percent increase in property tax revenue from the 2009-10 school year; now, under the tilt of the recession, he said the estimate from the districtand#8217;s three counties (Nevada, Placer and El Dorado) is actually a 5 percent decrease. That drop, he said, translates to about $2 million.

Dickinson, who told the board of trustees during Wednesdayand#8217;s meeting he was blindsided by the news, said there was no way for him or other financial experts to anticipate such a significant drop.

and#8220;Itand#8217;s much larger than I anticipated because itand#8217;s double the trend,and#8221; he said. and#8220;Itand#8217;s way beyond my even most conservative estimations.and#8221;

Answering the next pressing question and#8212; if the district must make immediate budget cuts and#8212; board President Kristy Olk said the $2 million shortfall would be supplemented this year by the districtand#8217;s reserves, currently at about $7.6 million.

However, all trustees and district staff agreed the reserves cannot be a long-term solution, especially since Dickinson said county officials have predicted the property-tax shortfall would most likely continue into the next two years.

Dickinson recommended, and the board agreed, the district must look soon at expenditure reductions in order to balance the 2011-12 budget.

and#8220;Expenses are now exceeding revenue,and#8221; Dickinson said. and#8220;Weand#8217;re immediately in a deficit budget, and how it will go out into the next two years remains to be determined.and#8221;

Trustee Bev Ducey said the situation is the exact reason why the board has been so reticent to use the districtand#8217;s reserve funding, despite sometimes harsh public criticism and push to use reserves for things such as salaries and school programs.

As a Basic Aid school district, TTUSD receives the majority of its revenue through property taxes, and additional revenue occurs through the sale of new or appreciating properties. Falling revenue happens when properties depreciate in value, resulting in lower amounts of property taxes that are collected, the latter of which has been the case for many properties in Tahoe.

and#8220;We are so not immune to the economic uncertainties happening right now,and#8221; Ducey said.

In a district press release issued Thursday, the district said this is the first time a decrease in property tax revenue has occurred since the district became a Basic Aid district in the 2003-04 school year.

and#8220;Obviously weand#8217;re at a place where not a lot can be done as far as reductions go this year, so weand#8217;re going to have to dip into the reserve,and#8221; Superintendent Steve Jennings said in a Thursday interview. and#8220;However, in the future, weand#8217;ll just have to make some decisions to reduce expenditures.and#8221;