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State takes $8.2 million from TUSD budget

POSTED September 18, 2009 11:06 p.m.
The Turlock Unified School District already adjusted their budget for the poor economy three years ago, but now new State legislation is reducing school district funding even further.
TUSD updated their budget Tuesday to account for new cuts from the State. The State reduced district funding by $8.2 million for the 2009/2010 school year, according to Lori Decker, TUSD chief financial officer.
Even with the cuts, the TUSD budget will break even because of cuts the District started making years ago in preparation for the falling economy, Decker said.
The $8.2 million in cuts from the State will not create a deficit in the TUSD budget thanks to $3.6 million in stimulus funds, $2.1 million saved from categorical program sweeps and the $6 million in TUSD cuts that started in 2008/2009, she said.
“When making cuts we think about if it is essential to the children to provide them with the best education,” she said. “If it is essential we save it and if not, we cut it to be conservative with our money.”
The categorical program sweeps are extra money that is not being used in certain programs that will help save money, Decker said. Some losses are buy back days, additional counselors, and maintenance funds. No programs are being eliminated. Only extra money is being taken to help balance out the cuts from the State.
The cuts TUSD is making will not affect the necessities for children to get a good education, she said.
“Most budgets are 80 to 85 percent personnel,” Decker said. “So it is not easy making cuts because we don’t want to cut salaries, benefits or employees.”
Three years ago, TUSD started to expect cuts with the downfall of the economy, she said. Cuts were made in the 2008/2009 school year of about $5 million and cuts for the 2009/2010 school year total $6.4 million.
Some of the cuts last year were a three percent pay decrease for all employees, the elimination of transportation for GATE and Magnet students, and the transition to a traditional calendar for all schools to decrease the amount of days schools would be in use, Decker said. Those cuts are still in place for the 2009/2010 school year and no additional cuts are planned to be made, unless the state makes additional cuts.
The state adopted a budget in February for the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 school year, she said. Almost a week later, the state realized their budget was out of balance, Decker said. The state was supposed to make cuts in 2008/2009 but failed to do so, and those cuts are being made now in the 2009/2010 school year. The current budget was passed June 30, 2009.
After the 2008/2009 school year, TUSD was expecting their reserves to be at 10.9 percent of annual expenditures, but at the end of the year their reserves had increased by $4.4 million to 14.7 percent, Decker said. By state law school districts must have a reserve of at least three percent, but on average school districts have about 10 to 12 percent in reserves.
TUSD is hoping to not touch their 14.7 percent in reserves, just in case there are more education cuts, she said. Even after cuts for the 2009/2010 school year, the 14.7 percent in reserves will remain untouched.
To contact Maegan Martens, email mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.
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