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$9.2M more in cuts possible

Worst case scenario if all 6 ballot measures fail May 19

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POSTED April 29, 2009 2:55 a.m.
Amber Diekmann is a freshman at Manteca High.

A year ago, she decided to challenge herself by taking Advanced Placement classes.

Diekmann now has hopes of attending college after high school. However, she fears those plans could be derailed if AP courses are part of the cost-cutting casualties to bridge Manteca Unified’s $23.5 million budget shortfall.

“Without AP classes we would be limited in our ability to excel,” Diekmann told the school board at Tuesday’s meeting.

Michael Seelye is also concerned.

The board president has 40 years of service as a college professor and understands the importance of AP courses.

“We have to be fiscally responsible or risk being taken over by the state,” Seelye said.

Thus far, AP courses have not been eliminated from the master schedule.

The driver’s education program along with the 20-to-1 students-to-teacher ratio known as class sized reduction also remain intact for now, according to Superintendent Jason Messer in his state of the budget report.

“The final decision could be made with staffing in June,” he said.

Faced with some uncertainties, Messer is taking a wait-and-see approach with the budget that covers a portion of this year and the 2009-10 school year.

Those uncertainties include the May 19 special election consisting of six ballot initiatives. And if all fail, public education statewide could find itself $6 billion further in the hole, Messer indicated.

“We would have to tack on another $9.2 million in cuts (in addition to the $23.5 million),” he said.

On the plus side, Messer said that 122 certified and classified employees have accepted the Public Agency Retirement Services.

Based out of Irvine, PARS is the third largest early retirement service planner in the state.

Certificated employees, in order to be eligible, had to be at least 55 with five years of service in the district, or age 50 with 30 years of service. Classified employees were required to be at least 50 with five years of service.

The district will continue to accept those who qualify for the early retirement package through May 5.

Messer is also waiting to get clarity on arrival of the federal stimulus package. “We do know there will be strings attached,” he said.

Besides the May 19 special election, Manteca Unified is looking at June 9 to draft a financial plan with “known stimulus dollars being more transparent,” said Messer, and June 23 to adopt a budget with staffing included.

“The San Joaquin County Office of Education is asking school districts take a conservative approach in building the budget,” he added.

By July 29, Messer is hoping the district will be in position to rehire staff and reinstate programs based on funding.

“The state of the budget was done so based with the best of my knowledge,” he said.
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