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Teachers jobs are safe, so far, says TUSD

POSTED October 6, 2009 11:17 p.m.
At Tuesday’s Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, superintendent Sonny Da Marto announced that there will be no layoff notices sent out this year. As of Tuesday night, no pink slips will be sent to teachers for layoffs in the 2010-2011 school year.      
So far, the state has not informed the district of any budget cuts and will not do so until January 2010 rolls around, said Lori Decker, TUSD chief financial officer.    
“If the budget remains the same, there will be no layoff notices this year,” Decker said.   
Last year, 127 pink slips (95 educators and 32 administrators) were sent out for layoffs to take place in May 2009.
“There will be no certificated or classified lay-offs due to lack of funds in the 2009-10 fiscal year to take effect in 2010-11,” according to TUSD staff and,   “there will be no additional salary reductions for 2010-11 beyond those negotiated for the 2009-10 fiscal year.”   
TUSD does not anticipate major program reductions or eliminations, barring changes in the state budget in January.  
Current funding, reductions from programs, and federal stimulus money gives TUSD the ability to make no layoffs this year, according to district staff.  Throughout the budget, the state allowed districts to sweep designated categorical Tier III funds into the general fund, which allowed TUSD to save jobs, Decker said.
Usually, the Tier III funds are restricted for the specific program only, but California unrestricted the Tier III funds to allow districts to take the excess money from the Tier III funds and literally sweep them into the general education fund for other uses. The only requirement with unrestricting Tier III funds, was the districts had to hold a public hearing to inform the public where the sweeps are being made, what the money will be used for and to allow the public to comment on the sweeps.  
“I am proud to be a part of this fiscally sound district,” said Julie Shipman, Turlock Teachers Association president during Tuesday’s hearing on the sweeps.      
While board members showed their excitement at the budget news, they also expressed their concerns for the possibility of cuts by the state in January.  
“I like how we are taking item by item, realizing what is a luxury and what is a necessity,” said Frank Lima, TUSD trustee. “We are looking at what we can and can’t live with.”  
Da Marto said he is confident enough in the budget to say that TUSD should be safe for next year’s budget as well.  
“We are about 95 percent confident that we will be OK,” Da Marto said. “If there are budget cuts, our reserves can weather them.”  
There are 42 different programs in the state categorical Tier III funding and TUSD has 20 of those programs for Tier III funding. Some of the programs are class size reduction, deferred maintenance, national board certification grant, adult education, school counseling and a variety of other grants.  
There are about 12 programs where excess money is being swept from into the general education fund for other uses in hopes of saving jobs. Some of the programs being swept from are deferred maintenance, community-based English tutoring, school counseling and targeted instructional improvement.  
The money being swept from the 12 programs are being used for school resource officers, teacher salaries and benefits, additional counseling staff, textbook purchases, administrator professional development and administrator salaries. Only a portion of the money from each program is being swept into general education funds. No programs are being eliminated.        
The district received a total of $5,135,789 for the 2009-10 school year for Tier III programs. The money saved from sweeping Tier III funds into the general education fund is $1,371,371 and $3,764,418 is being used for the original program use the state intended the money to be used for, according to TUSD staff.
“I have been through 10 budget cycles and the goal has always been to work with a stable budget,” said John Sims, TUSD trustee. “This year the goal has been to reduce fear with our budget. I hope that this reduces fear in everyone and promotes confidence.”     
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015. 
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