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Manteca Unified list of possible cuts at $13.3M

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Manteca Unified list of possible cuts at $13.3M

Acting Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer speaks to members of the 100-member budget reduction committee on Wednesday.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 8, 2009 1:22 a.m.

The Manteca Unified School District board will only need to cut $600,000 out of the designated Level 3 cuts up for consideration to close a $14 million shortfall assuming, of course, they adopt recommendations made by a 100-member committee.

During a meeting at the district’s administration complex Wednesday night, the Superintendent’s Budget Reduction Advisory Committee – a group of almost 100 administrators, educators, and classified employees formed to determine which cuts need to be made – whittled down the Level 2 and Level 3 cuts to reach the $13,374,000 mark.

Their recommendations will be forwarded on to the Board of Education for their discussion and possible final decision when they meet on Tuesday, January 13.

Acting District Superintendent Jason Messer is hopeful that since consensus was reached on Level II cuts, the board may adopt them as a whole package. The Level II cuts were identified as “the last resort” for reducing the budget.

Some of the cuts and changes being proposed are:

• eliminating the current Cost of Living Adjustment raise to save $779,148.

• continuing the current hiring freeze to save $1,500,000.

• cutting out all overtime to save $300,000.

• eliminating conference and travel to save $147,091.

• reducing the number of campus monitors at the high schools to save $170,000.

• ending car allowances for administrators to save $175,000.

• bringing special education transportation in house to save $140,000.

• re-working busing boundaries to save $55,000.

• charging students an athletic participation fee to save $315,000.

• not mailing progress reports or report cards to save $22,000.

More than a hundred people packed the first floor meeting room of the district’s new complex to learn exactly what was being placed on the chopping block as administrators work to clear a massive shortfall directly related to the tumultuous Sacramento budget scenario.

And their foresight might have ended up saving a whole lot more heartache.

Prior to previous Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer’s departure, she advised both the board and staffers that it would probably be in the district’s best interest to brace for a $15 million shortfall because the final numbers coming out of Sacramento were still unknown.

The move turned out to be brilliant, but it may not prevent the closure of some of Manteca’s neighborhood schools in order to make the budget deadline.

As part of their first round of cuts, the committee agreed to close both the Sequoia Annex – the old closed Yosemite School site that was used for overflow enrollment for Sequoia School  – as well as the Lathrop Elementary Annex.

But not everything that was listed to get axed on the orginal Level 2 docket is going away.

New Vision Educational Center Principal Katie Peters made her case to the group Tuesday that consolidating her Weston Ranch complex with students from Calla High School might be nothing more than a recipe for problems.

“At New Vision, the students have done well,” Peters said – noting that blending at-risk children from two different communities might be dangerous. “I hope that you take that into consideration when you’re talking about this.”

The recommendation was eventually placed in the Level 3 category that the trustees will have to mull during their next meeting to close the gap.

Manteca Educators Association President Ken Johnson was active in the voting on each of the items that were put up before the panel, and had some impassioned words for his fellow educators as they prepared to make the hard choices.

“We are all stakeholders in this budget process,” Johnson said towards the beginning of the meeting. “We are all Manteca Unified, and unified means just that – being unified.

“Even though I’m the president of the Manteca teachers, my first responsibility is to the students of this district.”

As part of Messer’s Budget Reduction Committee, there will be no layoffs in order to make it under budget by the deadline – something starkly different than in neighboring districts that have been forced to let teachers go because of a lack of funding.

The remainder of the cutbacks will be discussed at length when the Manteca Unified trustees gather next week to possibly finalize the process.

The Manteca Unified School Board will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. inside of the district’s new administration complex on Louise Avenue.

For more information, or to obtain a copy of the agenda, visit www.mantecausd.net

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