State take-aways could deplete LTUSD’s reserves


By Kathryn Reed

Cutting the school year by 15 days. Bigger class sizes. High school teachers moving to the elementary level. Using all of the reserves. Bus drivers looking for work; students without a ride. Early retirements.

Some or all of those statements are likely to be a reality for Lake Tahoe Unified School District. Depending on the state budget and what the local board decides to do, all of the statements could come to fruition.

The school board on Tuesday night adopted the proposed budget reductions affecting this school year and for next as presented by CFO Deb Yates. More specifics will be forthcoming in future meetings.

“We’ve pledged to STEA and CSEA not to do a (reduction in force),” Superintendent Jim Tarwater said at the beginning of the discussion that brought out an unusually large crowd for an LTUSD meeting.

The teacher and classified unions are working with the district to keep jobs, which keeps programs, which provides students a broader education. But with the busing situation, at least today, it looks near impossible to keep that department at the current staffing level.

LTUSD must fill a $424,000 hole the state just created by eliminating busing for special education and home to school transportation. Yates doesn’t know how the state can legally eliminate the spec ed busing when it’s a mandate. But state agencies (think Lahontan Water board) are known for unfunded mandates (think TMDL) to local jurisdictions (think South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado and Placer counties).

Reserves will be used to fill this year’s transportation take-away. With the state doling out those dollars on a monthly basis, it’s easy for the state controller to not write that check.

The transportation hit for 2012-13 is expected to be $834,000. To pay for the combined loss of more than $1.2 million it would cost each student $347. Students already pay to ride. But many on those yellow machines get a free ride – the same ones (about 60 percent) who qualify for a reduced or free lunch.

Not being touched is money to pay for athletic teams to travel.

The irony, as Yates pointed out Jan. 24, is if 200 students were not to go to school because the bus is the only way they could get there, that would be about a $700,000 loss in average daily attendance dollars.

“So it doesn’t behoove us to lose transportation,” Yates told the board. “First and foremost we are here to educate kids. We need to get them there to participate in their classes.”

Egregious, irresponsible and heartless are among the words she used to describe what the governor has brought forward.

A projected $9.2 billion shortfall in Sacramento is being foisted upon local jurisdictions to bear. Gov. Jerry Brown has two proposals on the table to deal with the deficit. The better of the two for K-14 education is for voters in November to agree to raise the sales tax by one-half cent and raising personal income tax for those who make more than $250,000 a year.

Because the outcome of that ballot measure won’t be known until late on the night of Nov. 6 – if not for days after the election – school districts are planning their 2012-13 budgets for the worst case scenario.

“While we feel that there is a sense of urgency, we, as a district, cannot make hasty decisions that could affect education in the years to come,” Jodi Dayberry, South Tahoe Educators Association president, told Lake Tahoe News after the board meeting.

She said a collaborative approach is what the two unions in LTUSD want from district staff. Tarwater at the start of the night said it was going to take everyone working together to get through the financial crisis.

Dayberry went on to say, “STEA and CTA encourage voters to become informed and show and vote for tax fairness and restore the sales tax one-half percent in November. Californians have to prioritize and put education first.”

LTUSD is looking at a $1.836 million shortfall for 2012-13. Three furlough days, early retirements, moving three teachers each from the middle school and high school to the elementary level, cutting the athletic director’s hours in half, and increasing class size would help close that gap. That’s what the board on a 5-0 voted OK’d Tuesday.

With a March 15 contractual deadline to let certificated employees know if they have a job for 2012-13, specifics need to be worked out before then, even though the state’s numbers won’t be solidified.




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Comments (7)
  1. Teacher says - Posted: January 25, 2012

    Wow, Kae,

    The one school board meeting I miss and it sounds like the conversation was very compelling.

    I still feel there are other avenues besides busing that should be looked into.

    In many mountain communities, one our rival, school is only held 4 days per week. The days are slightly longer, but the savings are immense.

    The 3 day weekends would give the students an opportunity to absorb what has been learned, (especially with our high school fast-paced program), the students would still be accountable for the entire curriculum, (not missing 15 days), and the facilities would be vacant one extra day per week (so, no staff, low utilities, no buses, no lunch, etc.).

    In addition, a 4 day school week would allow for more quality family time and assist in weekend getaways which now often takes away from our ADA.

    I agree, too, that the busing issue is very costly. I feel confident that students would be able to get to school if/when busing becomes obsolete.

    Why the athletic teams are not impacted is beyond me. Being a STHS parent I have driven numerous times to away games in a variety of sports for my children and often that is exactly what the coaches prefer. Letting the student athlete stay in class longer and be transported by parents is common at the high school. It is a win-win for the athlete and the fortunate driver who gets to enjoy the camaraderie of the team members. Also, if there was a 4 day school week possibly athletes could travel to away games on the 5th day.

    Time for LTUSD to look outside the box and do what is best for ALL. Not just the athletes. We are in EDUCATION first, correct?

    The early retirement incentive sounds appealing and would help lower the financial strain as those who have taught for many years are paid the highest. Possibly increasing the incentive would encourage even more retirement and bring in new, fresh faculty as well.

    Furthermore, LTUSD, PLEASE do not illiminate the music program as that is one of the reasons some of our students come to school in the first place. Why eliminate what is working so well?

    Thank you for letting me share…keep up the great articles, Kae.

    We can overcome!

  2. Skier says - Posted: January 25, 2012

    Teacher- A 4 day week would be stupid. Kids can only absorb so much information in a day. Sounds to me like you want 3 day weekends every week? How many days a year do you currently work?

  3. Johnny says - Posted: January 25, 2012

    Not sure why we are spending 80-90 million ( might be a few million off) to modernize the schools? Am I the only one that saw this coming?

  4. Dee Phillips says - Posted: January 25, 2012

    Many schools in Oregon are operating on a four day school week and it really does seem to work well. Personally, I would rather have a four day school week than cut a lot of programs and activities. I only have a first grader but the amount of homework she has is amazing. Three days off would give me more time to help her with it.

  5. Skier says - Posted: January 25, 2012

    Have you sat in class for 8 hours, go try it, then see if you think a 4 day week works good.

  6. Hangs Ups From Way Back says - Posted: January 25, 2012

    Time to be taught at home with Internet teachers.
    Turn our new High school into a shopping center pay off the debt.

    You are responsible for your own computer,Internet billing, software,grades.
    Then you go to the job or corporation of your choice see if you can pass the test for being hired.
    This society is a button pushing New World order.
    (God- I hope the power doesn’t go out, cause people aren’t smart enough use a slide rule to figure out their Grocery bill or doctors bill, put gas in the car,make sure the electric money not being data stolen.)

    With so many things being totally ran my artificial intelligence, you got be smart as they are ,they can put your finger prints on any credit line, easy now days.

    The people with the best technology will rule the world ,job markets.

    The apprentice trade been a live well since dawn of man.On the job training will never die.(first you need a job)

    With America being the war like nation of policing the world, join up take the chance of a good education or be a bone brain, carry a gun,take your chances the other guy bad shot.

    Get rid of congress,mayors,police,let machines make the right decisions with no courts or prisons, they just assign a ankle bracelet ,you get the amps when you make a bad choice.

    This really not too far off if we let our freedom of choice disappear.

    Is it worth dieing for, cheating ,stealing, protecting?

    ALL IT TAKES IS BIG MONEY and the 1% with all the funds.

    Take all the Americana’s unemployed, had them a shovel,pick axe, send them to Nevada start digging up the soil for Gold.
    Why no big government jobs like bridge repairs,new refineries,year round road work,new damns, entire states covered in solar panels , a mystery to the unskilled,hungry, wondering aimlessly in time.
    Imagination has changed the world and our way life,break out the blame game,put your fist together get to whipping butt on the people responsible.