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School district prepares for more cuts
TUSD budget pic
Newly elected Turlock Unified School District board members Harinder Grewal (far right) and Grady Welch (pictured with his family) are joined by returning board members during a swearing in ceremony Tuesday night at the board meeting. At their first board meeting Welch and Grewal were given a crash course into the complex world of district budgets. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

During their first Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustee meeting Tuesday night, newly elected trustees Grady Welch and Harinder Grewal were introduced to the nightmarish side of being school board members — the budget, and dealing with the State of California.

The board heard the first interim 2011-12 financial report from Financial Services Assistant Superintendent Lori Decker and the news was far from rosy.

Last summer the board braced for drastic cuts that never came thanks to the Governor Jerry Brown’s State Budget Act, which provided flat funding which gave schools approximately the same level of funding per student as they received in 2010-11. The state budget also projected a revenue increase of $6 billion.

The optimistic outlook at the time was proven foolish, as the State’s Legislative Analyst Office has now predicted a $3.7 billion shortfall. That shortfall could very well be validated by the State’s Department of Finance later this month. If the shortfall proves to be factual school districts throughout the state will have to face large-scale cuts. Built in trigger cuts were attached to the state budget based on the amount of shortfall.

Fortunately, TUSD has a healthy reserve balance and, according to Decker, no immediate impact would be felt this school year.

“Flat funding was a fallacy. What the state did was totally make our job (to balance and adopt a budget) impossible.  They told us to plan for this flat funding and then they said ‘oh by the way we were wrong,’” said Trustee Frank Lima. “Fortunately, the board saw this coming and we built up our reserves.”

Since the LAO has predicted a $3.7 billion shortfall the impact on TUSD will be a three percent loss in per-pupil funding. This loss in per-pupil funding could likely lead to a reduction in student services. The TUSD Budget Advisory Committee was directed to create a list of recommended cuts. In addition, there could be a $225,000 cut to home to school transportation and a $103,000 special education transportation decrease this year. These cuts would put TUSD about $4 million in the hole, which could be filled with reserve funding.

Should the same level of funding continue for the 2012-13 school year, the district would face another year of deficit spending, in the amount of $3.6 million which would again be back filled with reserve funding and by the 2013-14 year reserves would be less than nine percent of the TUSD budget.

To add further complexity to the mix, one-time federal stimulus funds are expiring this year and those funds paid for the hiring of 35 teachers.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2014.