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Deeper cuts on horizon for Ripon if state budget gets worse
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Layoffs could loom on the horizon for the Ripon Unified School District.

“It’s very painful, very depressing - the thought of cutting any more – very painful and makes me sick to my stomach,” Ripon schools superintendent Louise Nan told board members Monday night.

The state budget continues to be grim referencing a monthly school superintendents’ meeting Nov. 2 that warned of a potential shortfall of $15 billion.

“There is a possibility that the governor will call the legislature into special session to consider mid-year cuts,” she said.

Trustee Mike Fisher warned other board members that the $15 billion figure could be short sighted.  He pointed out that it was last year about this time when the state mentioned an $18 billion shortfall that ended up being much more - $24 billion.

“Education has been hit harder than any other area,” Fisher said.

Board member Ernie Tyhurst added his comment, “It’s ironic the state takes the position to take over an (economically failing) district when they are the culprit.”

Superintendent Nan reminded trustees that when the state accepted the stimulus funds it was agreed not to reduce school funding below the 2005-06 level.  She noted there is the possibility that California will seek a waiver of that commitment from the federal government or find some other way to impose further cuts.

“We remain in a wait-and-see mode at this point in time,” she said.

Property tax revenues are down.  State aid goes up,  if and when property taxes go down – but the state doesn’t have any money for state aid, Nan explained.

At the board’s next meeting trustees will see the first interim budget report for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

The Federal State Fiscal Stabilization funds have been included in this year’s budget, but they are for a one-time use and must be spent by the end of September 2011.  The lion’s share of those funds has been targeted for personnel costs this year.

The minimum reserve fund in year three of the multi-year projection is “dangerously close” to the required three per cent in the district’s undesignated ending balance in 2012 – at which point the district could be taken over by the state.

The budget projection for fiscal year 2010-2011 assumes the reduction of four full time employees calculated at the lower end of the teacher salary schedule at the end of the current fiscal year, Nan said in her budget analysis.

“Even without additional cuts, this probably will require layoff notices before the March 15, 2010 deadline,” she added.

The superintendent said that she is planning to expand and to reconvene the Budget Advisory committee later in November.  

“Decisions will need to be made in the coming months about how to handle these required additional budget cuts,” she said.

“At some point we need to take action to balance revenue and expenditures,” she added.  One hurdle the board faces is the possible deficit spending in the current and the next two fiscal years.

Survival strategies to be considered for the three-year period of 2009 to 2012 include using the federal stimulus funds wisely to hang on and build the capacity of the district; evaluate every vacant position for possible suspension or elimination; involve the community asking for help and volunteers where needed; take advantage of categorical flexibility and watch the cash flow carefully.