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Ripon’s need to cut now tops $1.5 million

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POSTED January 13, 2009 1:05 a.m.

RIPON – Facing more than $1 million in mid-year budget cuts with another $500,000 expected for the next school year, Ripon Unified is now facing some tough decisions.

And some of the extracurricular activities that students love and services they utilize daily might not exist once all of the dust settles.

Giving an update Monday night on the current budget situation and how it will affect Ripon’s schools, Superintendent Louise Nan didn’t mince words when explaining exactly what the district is up against in its ledgers.

“The economy continues to look grim, and school services realize that we – like the rest of California – are sharing in the misery,” she said, “of the California budget crisis that continues.”

But while the outlook is anything but positive – almost certainly requiring the cutting of certain services – Nan also warned that it wasn’t as bleak as some people believe.

Recent rumors that the district is going to run out of money soon and not be able to pay workers, she said, is categorically untrue, and expanded that if the State of California is eventually faced with issuing “registered warrants” – the official term for IOUs – that education nears the top of the priority list in the eyes of State Controller John Chiang.

The true nature of what may be coming, however, was brought to light from a question posed by student board member Michelle Ambrose.

When Ambrose inquired about how the cuts would affect the student body, Nan explained that during the 2003/04 school year the district had already cut a large majority of its operations and maintenance divisions and never replaced them.

“We don’t have a lot of fluff,” Nan said. “We’re not like other districts where there are a lot of extra people or vice principals at every school or anything like that.

“Unfortunately we’re going to have to start  looking at things like busing, libraries, increasing class sizes, and extracurricular activities – they’re all things that the budget study committee will have to examine.”

While the California Legislature is still deadlocked in passing a budget that will ultimately determine the final numbers that schools throughout the state will have to face, Trustee Ernie Tyhurst wants to see the Board of Education start acting early to make sure that they aren’t caught off guard when the final hammer comes down.

“At some point we’re going to have to start making those hard decisions and not waiting until the legislature tells us what’s going to happen,” he said.

During her remarks, Nan stressed that anytime the administration is faced with budget cuts it does everything possible to make sure that they stay as far away from the classrooms and the students as they can.

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