Uncertainly looms over school district | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Uncertainly looms over school district

With the future of the California budget and its impact on education up in the air, the superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District asked the board of education to consider halting future staff and community meetings until the state solidifies solutions for its budget.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Diane Scheerhorn made the suggestion. The declaration was made before the board approved an outdated financial report for the 2002-03 school year.

The required financial report, moot after Gov. Gray Davis proposed staggering cuts in education to the Legislature on Monday, was passed unanimously without much dialogue or fanfare.

The district is facing a more than $1 million shortfall from declining enrollment. The governor’s announcement, along with other cuts to mend the state’s $21 billion deficit, calls for $10.2 billion in overall savings and cuts.

The governor proposed roughly a 3.7 percent across-the-board funding cut totaling $1.8 billion, said Scheerhorn.

“The proposal, if enacted, has the potential to impact the Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s current year’s budget by over $600,000,” Scheerhorn said. “There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty as to how this 3.66 percent will be calculated.”

Scheerhorn then asked the board to “consider placing on hold future staff, parent and community meetings.” Decisions regarding budget reductions cannot be made until the Legislature votes on Davis’ proposal, which could come as late as the end of January, Scheerhorn said.

The superintendent asked parents to write letters to the Legislature, Davis’ office and PTA organizations to voice concerns.

“I ask that we join forces to secure our school district,” she said. “It has been expressed to me that this may be the most devastating experience in the history of California schools. We need to work collaboratively to keep our learning community a united group.”

Chief Financial Officer Diane Head shared preliminary news that the governor may decrease average daily attendance by $100, and not $300 as originally believed. The district receives the bulk of its money, $24.7 million, through ADA. This is $4,743 per student provided by the state.

A couple board members shared stories from their weekend trip to San Francisco for a California School Board Association meeting.

“Wendy (David) and I went to a couple (of workshops) on doing more with less,” said board member Sue Yang.

David compared the atmosphere to”leaving a funeral” when California school board members heard the news of the budget cuts.

“I don’t think a person said a word as the gravity hit us all,” she said. The meeting kicked off with public comments from Ric White, who proposed a solution to the district’s financial woes by having a 5 percent across-the-board pay cut for school staff.

In addition, White proposed decreasing the amount of insurance for various teachers and administrators. The result would free up more than $1 million, White said.

Carry Loomis, president of Meyers Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, asked the board to dip into reserves.

Jimmy Vaughn, president of South Tahoe Educators Association, asked the board not to “overreact” to the projected state budget cuts and asked the board to use reserves if mid-year cuts are enacted.

After the financial discussions, the board re-elected board President Lennie Schwartz for another year. Yang was chosen as clerk of the board.

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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