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District not out of the woods yet with May state budget revise

Teacher says he was disappointed by low workshop turnout
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A May revision to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget could bring more dollars to education, but local school district representatives say it isn’t time to celebrate. The district held a budget workshop Wednesday night to try to help educate the community about the cuts it has made over the last decade due to lack of state funding. The workshop was an eye opener for Jeffrey Gail, a sixth grade teacher at E.V. Cain Charter Middle School. Gail, who has worked for the district for 14 years, said the issue of state funding deferrals was a particularly sobering thing for him to learn about. “I (was) just thinking, ‘Are you kidding?’” Gail said. “Who does this? This is the best country in the world …and this state is the most affluent state in the country. And this is the way our state behaves? If you or I tried to run a business this way, there would be actions against us by our employees. The meeting was clearly presented, and the information given was not positive, but it was encouraging that it won’t be as bad as we first thought.” Daniel Berlant, president of the district’s board of trustees, said about 25 people attended the meeting and the district gave three presentations about the history and state of its budget. Michele Schuetz, superintendent of Auburn Union, said Thursday she wished more people had attended, because the district is hoping to promote good communication between itself and the community. “We’re just trying to be really transparent in what we are doing and trying to get input from the community, so we hope more people will come to meetings and listen to what we have to say,” Schuetz said. The district’s goal with the workshop was also to make its budget transparent and let the community know funds are not being misspent, Berlant said. Berlant said he gave a presentation about the history of district cuts over the last 10 years. “In the last decade we have cut administration, we have cut a principal, we have closed a school and ended library and computer support,” Berlant said. “So, people understand the budget crisis in the last couple years, the economy’s down, this is nothing new, but our district’s been facing this for the last 10 years.” Berlant said community members who attended had some really good questions, including why Auburn Union seems to be taking a harder hit than other local districts. “We are a declining enrollment district,” he said. “In just the past decade we have lost one-third of our students or 1,000 of them. So obviously the fewer students you have the less money you get.” In his presentation at the workshop, Berlant stated that 27 percent of the district’s funding comes from the state. State funding deferments started in the 2006/2007 school year. In 2010/2011 education statewide was supposed to receive $59.7 billion, but instead received $49.7 billion. California education is slated to receive $61.2 billion next school year, but will most likely get $50 billion if the governor’s May revised budget is approved, Berlant said. Berlant said because of the May revision, which would allow $3 billion more for education than currently slated for next school year in the governor’s proposed January budget, things don’t look as “doom and gloom” as they did before. However, the Placer County Office of Education is asking school districts to plan for the revision not passing. “Hopefully, if the May revise goes through as is and everything continues to look the way it looks right now, the cuts will not have to be as drastic as we have been discussing,” he said. “But I think it’s really important we all realize we can’t plan on the best case scenario until it is a signed and active budget. The state’s budget is most likely not going to be signed on time and the hard part for us is our budget, by Ed Code and by state law, has to be done by June 30. That’s a huge dilemma we are in. We may have to make cuts not knowing what that budget is going to do until it is signed and that may not be until mid school year next year.” Michele Schuetz, superintendent of Auburn Union, said Thursday the district’s budget committee, which is made up of community members, is scheduled to present recommendations of what cuts to make to the board at its May 25 meeting. Douglas Crancer, assistant superintendent of business and facilities at Auburn Union, said while the May budget revision is positive, it is not going to make everything better. “Even though the state appears to be backing off the $330 per student cut, schools are still getting funded based on the 2005/2006 dollars,” Crancer said. “So, we are getting funded as if we are in 2005/2006, but we’re operating on 2010/2011 expenditures. That’s a big difference, costs have gone up.” Crancer said he had a request for the parents of the district to provide a better financial and educational experience for the district and students. “Just get your kids in school, provided that they are not sick,” he said. “If there is a doctor’s appointment or dentist appointment, they can still go to school for a portion of that day and we will still get the full amount of funding for that day.” Gail said he wished more people attended the workshop given the dire state of education funding in California. “I was disappointed by the low attendance because I think I’m not alone,” he said. “I think a lot of people make assumptions about the financial state of the district … that are not accurate. I have worked in this district for 14 years. If I didn’t get the way it works and how bleak things are, I bet the public doesn’t either.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Info Box What is Auburn Union’s budget committee recommending for cuts? According to Tris DeMauri, chairman of the district’s budget committee, the committee has recommended that several things be cut or changed in the budget. • Cut fifth grade band • Change reserve for mental health items because they are receiving other funding • Stop using centralized contracted services, including one that trains employees on legalities and technicalities and advises the board and administration • Cut some funding for instructional materials DeMauri said there are also several items the committee was going to suggest that now may not have to be cut or changed if the governor’s May revised budget is approved. • End the reduction of class sizes, bringing all classes up to at least 28 students. • Have principals cover special education, supervision of operations at schools • Lay off two staff secretaries • Have two schools share a principal • Impose salary reductions across the board • Negotiate with classified employees to pay a portion of CalPERS contribution