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Budget concerns take over first TUSD candidate debate

POSTED October 2, 2009 10:54 p.m.
The budget was the number one topic at the first debate held for candidates running for open seats on the Turlock Unified School Board of Trustees. Five out of the six candidates running for the open seats on the TUSD Board sat patiently waiting for their next question from the community. Out of the questions they were asked, about half of those were concerning budget cuts and where the cuts were going to be made.  
The League of Women Voters and Walnut Elementary School PTA hosted the Thursday evening debate to give the community a chance to voice their concerns. About 40 people attended the debate and only 10 questions were sent up to the speaker to ask the candidates.
The debate started with a two-minute opening statement from each candidate. Incumbents Felica Renshaw, who was unable to attend the debate due to an out-of-state trip planned a year in advance, Timm LaVelle and Tami Muniz all emphasized their experience working on the board of trustees, while the challengers, Lori Crivelli, Josh Bernard and Bob Weaver all expressed their desire to bring a new perspective to the board.  
A majority of the questions asked Thursday were concerning the budget and the priorities of the candidates when budget cuts come down the road in the future. Each candidate had a different perspective on items being cut, but most of them all agreed it is a difficult time and budget cuts are not something they like.  
Bernard said he would use reserve money that has been saved for the budget cuts and he wants all cuts to be spread equally among each program and school.    
“The pain should be spread evenly,” Bernard said.  
LaVelle and Muniz both agreed to start with the community and staff members for ideas on what can be cut back on to save jobs within the school district. Cutting jobs is their last resort, they both said.    
Weaver said he believes sports can cut back on some tournaments and extra activities, but they shouldn’t be cut completely, he said. Transportation was another area where cuts could be made, Weaver said.
Crivelli referred to her experience as a business owner and said she thinks cuts should be worked out from the top to the bottom. She compared the district to being ran like a business.
“The teachers and staff are dealing with the students on a daily basis,” Crivelli said. “So cutting a school would be the last resort.”  
Having a good school district for the students was a concern of community members and all five of the candidates said that a good district consists of providing the same opportunity to all students to have a well-rounded education.  
“A good district provides an opportunity for every child to succeed to their own level,” LaVelle said.  
To contact Maegan Martens e-mail, mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015. 
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