School board to cut $5.5 million to balance budget

By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Correspondent
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A decrease in the state’s trigger cuts “sounds like good news” for Western Placer Unified School District. That’s according to the district’s Assistant Superintendent Joyce Lopes but district officials are still looking for at least $5.5 million in cuts to balance the budget in 2012-13. The state Department of Finance (DOF) released its revised revenue estimates Tuesday to school officials. “The good news is the DOF revision improves on the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) November estimate by nearly $1.5 billion, with total 2011-12 State General Fund revenues now estimated at $86,247,000,” according to School Services of California. “Statute requires that trigger cuts be determined based on the higher of the LAO or DOF revised estimate. This means that DOF expects that the state will realize nearly half of the $4 billion in additional revenues assumed when the current year budget was adopted.” Lopes said the state is cutting kindergarten to 12th-grade funding statewide by $79.6 million for the current fiscal year. The initial projection was $1.5 billion statewide. Instead of the state cutting average daily attendance revenue by $190 per student, the actual number will be $13 per student for Western Placer Unified School District. Because of the revenue limit change, the district will lose $720,000 in Basic Aid Charter Funds. “One offsets the other,” Lopes said. Fifty percent of the school district transportation fund, or $173,000, will be cut between February and June for 2011-12 and by the same amount for 2012-13. “We’ll have to get more support from the General Fund,” Lopes said. “We will not be changing any of the routes this year. It’s up to the board but I don’t think the routes will change much next year.” Lopes said the reduction in trigger cuts will likely reduce district budget cuts for 2013-14 by $700,000. The board unanimously approved the first interim report during Tuesday’s meeting, which means the district expects to meet its financial obligations for the current and subsequent two fiscal years, according to a staff report. The net change for the 2011-12 $50 million school district budget is $25,000 to the positive. Superintendent Scott Leaman’s salary will remain at $156,000. The board unanimously approved a one-year contract for Leaman. He has been Western Placer district superintendent since 2006. Leaman received an overall score of 4.83 out of 5 from trustees, who ranked him in the categories of educational leadership, district administration, relationships with the board, business and finance, community relationships and personal qualities. “Your integrity and communication skills are a wonderful gift,” trustee Brian Haley said to Leaman. Leaman expressed his appreciation. “Working here has been a blessing for me… Thank you for the accolades but everyone allows me to receive your wonderful comments,” Leaman said. Over the holiday break, Leaman will work with the budget committee to go over a list of 200 ideas ranging from programs to compensation to present an initial budget reduction proposal to the board at a January meeting. Leaman cautioned that the ideas submitted have not been vetted so “don’t get too excited.” “A lot of ideas involve contract issues,” said new board president Damian Armitage. Armitage was elected president, Kris Wyatt vice president and Brian Haley clerk at Tuesday’s meeting.