Tuesday Mar 18 2008
Loomis schools taking hit in state budget crisis
By: Joyia Emard Loomis News Staff Writer
This is our own worst, hard time, said Bart O'Brien, Placer Union High School District Superintendent. O'Brien was speaking to district faculty at Del Oro High School last week about the mandated 10% state education cuts. He said the cuts come out to $580 per student for all k-12 Placer county schools. He was comparing the current fiscal crisis to a book written about the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time. The problem is that during the last state budget crisis in 2003 we made deep cuts to our budget that we never replaced, O'Brien said during an interview after the presentation. Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed state budget cuts would hit Del Oro High School harder than the Loomis Union School District or the Town of Loomis. Neither the school districts nor the town plan on any layoffs of permanent employees at this time. The high schools will not replace retiring teachers and have notified their temporary teachers and aides that they may not be returning. The high schools may also have to lay off classified employees. The elementary district has notified four temporary teachers that they will not be returning. According to Paul Johnson, Loomis district superintendent, they will consider deeper cuts next year during budget planning for the following year if the governor continues to propose massive educational cuts. We have adequate reserves for two years, so we'll just be running a maintenance budget, said Jay Stewart, Loomis district assistant superintendent. Our board has been very fiscally conservative and has kept the reserves at higher than required levels. According to Johnson, the district will be cutting back on staff training and development and may have to re-evaluate their technology plan. We fine-tooth combed the budget to avoid any teacher layoffs, We're trying to keep the cuts out of the classrooms, Johnson said. Our board has done a very good job at managing the budget. We don't take it to the wire. Loomis finance director, Roger Carroll, said cuts will delay the distribution of gas tax money to the town by six months. The budget crunch won't permanently affect us, it will only affect our cash flow, Carroll said. We have sufficient cash reserves because we have no debt. Carroll also explained that the state Legislative Analysts Office has suggested an alternative budget which includes additional tax cuts. The town would lose $100,000 in state funding for supplemental law enforcement if that plan is adopted. That money pays for the town's traffic officer, Carroll said. He did not know if Loomis would be able to keep the position, which is provided through Placer County Sheriffs. It's an incredibly difficult time for us. The cuts will be challenging, said Doug Marquand, Placer high school district assistant superintendent. Marquand said the high schools will be increasing class sizes, reducing professional development for faculty, cutting utility usage and freezing salaries. He said the district has formed a Budget Advisory committee made up of various stakeholders to recommend cuts and communicate with district employees. O'Brien said that as part of the reductions the district may lose their educational intervention programs, which are targeted at helping low-achieving students in reading and math. Every cut we make now affects students and programs, he said.