School board trying to avoid layoffs

Tentative agreement includes four furlough days for teachers
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The school board heard about a possible way to fund the building of a new elementary school during Tuesday night’s brief meeting. Cathy Allen, Western Placer Unified School District’s assistant superintendent of facilities and maintenance services, gave a presentation about financial hardship, which could be an option to fund Lincoln Crossing Elementary South. The school district attempted to pass Measure J, a $163-million school bond, which was defeated in November. The bond would have provided funding for various projects, including the construction of a new elementary school, according to previous News Messenger reports. “It was requested by the board when the bond failed to look at other (alternate funding) options,” said Western Placer Unified School District’s Superintendent Scott Leaman. Financial hardship is one of those options but neither Allen nor board members seemed optimistic about it. “It’s an example of one program we don’t qualify for and there is no money to fund it,” school board member Paul Carras said. “A growing district won’t be able to survive without passing a GO (general obligation) bond.” Carras said the school district “will have to look” for other funding options. “If we go into it today, we would qualify for it. There’s no point in doing that because there is no state money,” Allen said. Allen explained what financial hardship is. “Financial hardship assistance is available for those districts that cannot provide all or part of their share of a school facility project,” Allen said. “A district is required to have made all reasonable efforts to impose all levels of local debt capacity and development fees prior to requesting financial hardship.” The district would have to identify a specific project they would use the financial hardship funding for, according to Allen, and the district’s funds for capital outlay projects “would be deemed available as a matching contribution.” “The little bit of money we do have left would have to go to that identified project,” Allen said, which means the district wouldn’t have money left for facilities projects that could come up. A school built under financial hardship could mean a compact campus, “a basic classroom layout with no frills” and materials of lower cost and quality, according to Allen. In other news, negotiation talks have started for the school district’s labor groups. Leaman said a tentative agreement was made on Monday for the Western Placer Teacher’s Association. “What we are doing is looking at budget reductions for next year,” Leaman said. “In general, what we are looking at is four furlough days for, in this case, teachers and then a change in the health- benefit program.” One benefit of the tentative agreement is avoiding possible layoffs, which Leaman said “coincides with increasing class sizes” and less programs. “It is a wonderful step for the district to look at not having to engage in layoffs,” Leaman said. Western Placer Teacher’s Association president Mike Agrippino spoke on behalf of the labor group about the tentative agreement. “”We believe this is helping the district to reach budget reduction goals for 2011-2012,” Agrippino said. “We are able to keep programs going and teachers employed.”