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TUSD budget updates mixed with the good, the bad, and the ‘scary’

POSTED October 26, 2010 9:33 p.m.

So far the budget for the Turlock Unified School District looks good, but there are payment deferrals, suspended mandates and no funds for mental health funds.

And all of this is based on a “scary” budget.

“It is a really scary budget with no promise of being sustainable,” said Lori Decker, TUSD chief financial officer. “It is a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The TUSD budget advisory committee went over the new updates for the 2010/2011 budget but no one was jumping up and down with excitement even with extra funds from coming in from the Education Jobs funding bill of $2.3 million and extra funds per Average Daily Attendance totaling to about $3.2 million.

Some of the good news is that the $2.3 million from the Education Jobs funding will be set aside for 2011/2012 salaries, Decker said. The district has used one-time Federal State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to support salaries and benefits funded in 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 but the one-time money will be gone by the end of this year. So the district’s direction is to use the Education Jobs funding to fund salaries and benefits for the next fiscal year.

But despite some of the good news, no one was jumping up and down with excitement because the budget doesn’t seem to be stable enough to know for sure that there will be no additional cuts.

“Our 2010/2011 budget is way up in the air,” said Sonny Da Marto, TUSD superintendent. “It looks good now but the budget is really shaky. The good news is that it looks positive right now.”

The district is preparing for mid-year cuts, because Da Marto said he has heard people up in Sacramento predicting the new governor will make some mid-year reductions that will affect the 2010/2011 budget.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also eliminated funding for mental health services, now putting those services on the schools if the county decides to not continue those services due to a lack of funding, Decker said. The mental health services are required by law and if the county decides to not offer the services anymore, the school district will have to provide the services, which could cost the district money. Expected costs are unknown at this time.

The state also suspended some state mandates — scoliosis screening, physical performance testing, pupil promotion and retention and school accountability report cards. State mandates are supposed to be reimbursed by the state, but in the last 10 years or so the state has not had money to do so, Decker said. So the state is no longer legally requiring school districts to perform the suspended mandates.

Scoliosis screening usually happens in grades seven and eight and the physical performance testing usually happens in grades five, seven and nine.

“We are no longer required by law to do it,” Decker said. “But the district will have to decide whether to continue the mandates or not.”

With the good and the bad news, it looks like “right now, we hope to make it through next year with no budget reductions,” Decker said.

But with that, the district is prepared for mid-year cuts and will cross their fingers until the release of the Governor’s budget in January.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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