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Committee finalizes budget suggestions for school board

POSTED March 12, 2010 10:15 p.m.
After a month of torturous decision making, the Turlock Unified School District Budget Advisory Committee has completed their list of budget cut suggestions. The committee’s budget reduction recommendations will be submitted to the TUSD Board of Trustees in April.  
“This is the first Monday night in a while that I will get some sleep,” said Al Silveira, chair of the Budget Advisory Committee.  
The committee’s final list of recommendations is separated into two priority groups and totals about $7.2 million in cuts. Suggested budget cuts will be presented to the board of trustees at the April 13 school board meeting.
Items on the priority one list include:
• Retaining Medi-Cal Administrative Activities funds;
• Freezing step and column pay schedules for all employees;
• Reducing school site and district office department allocations;
• Reducing restricted maintenance contributions;
• Reducing salaries or benefits;
• Increasing portion of assistant principal salaries paid for with categorical funds;
• Discontinue providing GED testing; and
• Reducing or eliminating mileage stipends.
Priority one suggestions total $4.27 million in cuts.
Items on the priority two list include:
• Instituting fees for athletics and extra-curricular transportation for students in seventh to 12th grades;
• Reducing or eliminating school resources officers;
• Eliminating cash out of health cap for new employees;
• Increasing class sizes in kindergarten through third grades; and
• Increasing class sizes by one student per class in grades four through 12. Priority two suggestions total $2.92 million in cuts.
Committee members created a priority two list to back up recommendations in the priority one list “in the event that agreement cannot be reached on the negotiable items in the priority one list or that the budget situation worsens with the state’s May revise,” according to district reports.
Out of the priority one list suggestions, $1.9 million is negotiable and could completely disappear if the district can’t reach an agreement with union representatives.
“I am not hopeful this is the worse it’s going to get,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto about state education cuts at the Feb. 8 budget advisory meeting.
The potential additional cuts may come from a lack of expected federal funding that could leave the state budget short of more than $5 billion, said Lori Decker, TUSD chief financial officer. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger included an additional $6.9 billion in federal funding in the most recent state budget. California is expecting a little over $1 billion in federal funding and the lack of money will affect the entire state budget.
“We don’t know how it will affect education yet,” Decker said. “We are looking at potentially more reductions.”
According to School Services of California, schools are expected to see an additional 40 percent cut because of the lack of federal funding.  
“We could see up to another $3.9 million cut,” said Decker. “We still have some work cut out for us.”
The TUSD Board of Trustees will vote on the suggested recommendations at the April 13 school board meeting. The board meeting is open to the public and will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Turlock High School Performing Arts building.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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