Education, health will suffer most |

Education, health will suffer most

The mood was not surprising among officials when asked their thoughts on Gov. Gray Davis’ budget proposal to offset an almost $35 billion budget deficit.

Lake Tahoe Community College President Guy Lease believed the proposed increase of community college fees from $11 to $24 per unit was too much, even though LTCC works on a quarter system and won’t experience that great of a hike.

“You’ll see (students) drop like flies,” Lease said about the rate hike’s effect on enrollment.

Lease felt the fee should have been raised to $15 per unit to avoid detrimental outcomes. The $24-per-unit fee would price out minorities and lower-income people who desire an education, thus creating race and class issues if the increase is approved, he said.

Partnership for Excellence, a $900,000 agreement between California and the community college to improve the number of graduates, transfers and successful course completions, was also cut 45 percent, thus erasing practically $400,000 from the program.

Under the current proposal, Lease expects future staff cuts.

“There’s no way we can run the program with this less (amount of) money,” he said. “There’s no way we can operate a community college on the cuts he made to our budget.”

Lease expects the $820 million of state funding to the community college system will also take a hard hit.

State Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, echoed the sentiments with his party that the Democratic governor is going the wrong way in proposing $8.3 billion in tax increases to fix the shortfall.

Many Republicans believe Davis inflated the deficit figure to give legitimacy to his plan for increasing taxes.

“The governor’s plan for massive tax increases in the middle of a recession is absolutely the wrong thing to do,” Oller said. “These tax increases will be disastrous for our economy and they will make the budget problem even worse. If the Legislature is foolish enough to give in to Gray Davis’ demands, we will only succeed in turning this recession into another depression for our state.”

Health programs was another area that was slammed. Along with an already proposed 10 percent rate cut to health care providers, there was an additional 5 percent cut to be added to the original cut.

That does not bode well with Gayle Erbe-Hamlin, the director of Public Health for El Dorado County. She was not surprised by the reduction in health programs since “that’s where the big dollars are.”

She envisioned a bleak future for Medi-Cal, since the doctors who treat Medi-Cal recipients won’t get full payback for their services. The effect will be doctors reevaluating if they can treat Medi-Cal patients.

“There are limited numbers already,” Erbe-Hamlin said. “This has the potential to reduce that pool even more.”

However, thanks to federal money received from successfully suing the tobacco industry, El Dorado County health programs are in good shape, she said.

Diane Scheerhorn, superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District, was frustrated with the lack of details Davis provided on the $5.4 billion in education cuts. With the district facing more than a $1 million shortfall because of declining enrollment, Scheerhorn has put a hold on community discussions and staff decisions on how to handle the deficit until the state budget is made clear.

She will travel to Sacramento early this week for a budget workshop conference with officials from School Services of California to receive more data on the impacts on education.

“I don’t know any more than you do at this moment,” she said Friday afternoon.

City Manager Dave Jinkens is not getting much sleep these days as he tries to sift through the myriad cuts the governor has proposed that will affect South Lake Tahoe. He and Mayor Judy Brown met last week with Oller and Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, to discuss the financial situation, with Jinkens saying it was one of many meetings that will take place.

“We will be looking more specifically and carefully (at) how each of the proposed actions contained in the governor’s budget impacts us and our ability to deliver service,” Jinkens said. “This is not the time for scare tactics, but for cold hard facts to be made available to the City Council, general public and our legislators.”

Jenkins is in the process of verifying figures relating to the loss of vehicle license fee dollars. Jinkens said the League of California Cities forecasts South Lake Tahoe losing $496,269 for the rest of this fiscal year and about $1.06 million in fiscal year 2003-04.

There are likely to be fewer redevelopment dollars coming this way. Jinkens speculates a shift in money could “harm our ability to finance existing and new redevelopment ….”

There is no word yet how Davis’ plan to alter the structure of booking fees for inmates in city and county facilities will be felt locally.

“Within the next few days, I will be taking some precautionary measures regarding our budget, filling of vacancies, and be looking very carefully at expenditures and projects that can or will cost the city over time dollars for maintenance and operation,” Jinkens said. “My approach is to take the budget crisis seriously and cautiously without overreacting.”

— Contact William Ferchland at

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