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Western Placer gets $17 million from state

Funds buy time to carry district through tough economic times
By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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A $14-million infusion from a claim to the state of California ensures that no cuts will be necessary this year, according to Superintendent Scott Leaman. “We’re not going to do any cuts at all,” Leaman said Friday. The claim to the state centered around property-tax allocations to Horizon Charter Schools, which had students from out of the Western Placer’s boundaries being supported by property tax from within the district’s boundaries. The claim was approved by the state on Feb. 20, according to Leaman. The money, Leaman said, comes directly from the state’s budget, and does not come from any other school districts. “It was a claim to the state based on an education code,” Leaman said. That education code is set up for school districts that sponsor a large charter school, said Terri Ryland, assistant superintendent for business and support services. When the charter school brings property tax revenues below the revenue limit – an amount calculated by a complex formula – the those districts are eligible for reimbursement by the state, Ryland said. “I think it’s great because there has been a lot of cuts in the past year,” said Maria Desantiago, First Street Elementary School librarian. “It’ll be really nice to see it put to good use. I’m glad to hear that.” Some of that good use, Ryland said, will be the establishment of a reserve. Steve Gregory has three students in the Western Placer District. “I think it’s obviously a good thing,” Gregory said, adding that he is glad there will be no cuts this year. The $14 million includes school years back to the 2004-2005 year, said Ryland, adding that the district will receive more money from the 2003-2004 school year later. The 2003-2004 funds will come later because, when the formulas had to be reworked, Western Placer was unable to submit the final claim before the cutoff, pushing it until the next one, Ryland said. An additional $3 million was allocated by the state to cover this school year, Leaman said, but Ryland expects that number to go up when the state reviews the numbers in April. “At a time when districts around us will be engaging in reductions in force, classified cuts, and other budget reductions” Leaman wrote in a Feb. 26 letter to Western Placer Unified School District staff, “I would like to calm the waters and inform you that we will not be seeking additional reductions.” Leaman praised Assistant Superintendent for Business and Support Services Terri Ryland and her department for the hard work at “finding and guiding this claim to its conclusion.” The funds, though timely, mostly serve to fill gaps in the budget and buy time for district officials to “fully understand the effects of the state budget and its interaction in our district,” Leaman wrote. The recently passed state budget reduced school funding, which effectively reduces funding for Western Placer by $5 million over two years, according to Leaman. “The big thing is going to be that the bulk of the money is one-time,” Ryland said, “so we need to make sure we only use it for one-time purposes.” Ryland added that she will advise the board of trustees to set aside a healthy surplus with the money in addition to filling in budget gaps. “To me, personally,” Ryland said, “I’ve been working on this for six months and I’m still jumping up and down. I’m so excited for the district that they’re going to get this money.” The district is currently working on a budget for next year and anticipates its approval by the board in June, Leaman told employees last Friday. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.