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Million dollar question for schools

If projected numbers prove true, Lake Tahoe Unified School District will have to make more than $1 million in midyear cuts to satisfy the governor’s budget proposal.

Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn, speaking at a Tuesday night board of education meeting, relayed projected numbers of midyear cuts that she received from School Services of California, an educational consulting firm based in Sacramento.

On Friday, Gov. Gray Davis submitted his budget proposal to fix an almost $35 billion deficit. Heavy cuts in education and health are expected in the final version.



The numbers are early, have been rounded and will change, but they at least give the district a rough idea of what to expect.

For instance, locally, funding for classroom size reduction from kindergarten to third grade would take a projected hit of $145,000. Likewise, home-to-school transportation could be cut by $92,200.




The bulk of the money received from the state is projected to be decreased by 2.2 percent, or $530,000.

Scheerhorn stated the numbers are a “best guesstimate” of midyear cuts and didn’t know how they will impact the district. She said the soonest she would know is the end of the month.

In addition, the California budget crisis will likely not fund cost of living increases for teachers next year. School Services of California also projected about a $28,000 cut in categorical program funds for the 2003-04 fiscal year.

The district was already facing a more than $1 million shortfall from a 268 student decline this year compared to last.

Planing to deal with the initial $1 million shortfall included going through all programs, figuring out the cost to run an elementary school and calculating how much the district would receive if it sold portables. These were put on hold and Scheerhorn placed a moratorium on community discussions until the state budget becomes more clear.

Scheerhorn stated the district is “not waiting idly” but “working pro-actively.”

“We are going to survive this,” Scheerhorn said.

Lake Tahoe Community College is facing midyear cuts of at least $400,000, said Lori Gaskin, vice president of academic affairs.

“That’s huge for a small college like us,” Gaskin said. “Nothing is free from scrutiny.”

No decisions have been made yet, but the college is looking at freezing funding for faculty to attend conferences. The position of a retiring switchboard operator would likely not be filled. The college will thin the class schedule to reduce printing costs.

“We’re looking at small classes and looking at what classes we can fill and what classes we can’t,” Gaskin said.

Even though enrollment is up and the college will receive more funding compared to years past, the money won’t come near to compensating the shortfall caused by the deficit, Gaskin said.

–EContact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com


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