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$8M more in school cuts made
Prep athletes will pay $153 transportation fee next year
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Sierra High and the new Lathrop High will continue block scheduling.

But the Manteca Unified School District may have to look at other funding resources.

Trustees voted 5-2 Tuesday to eliminate the general fund contributions as part of the Level II recommendations put together by acting Superintendent Jason Messer’s budget reduction committee.

In turn, the move could save the district $210,000 of the estimated $8 million under the Level II plan.

While California is yet to pass a budget to cope with the growing deficit because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators are still trying to settle matters, Manteca Unified and other school districts have been preparing for the worst.

The local district has a goal of $14 million in cuts for 2009-10 school year, with the board nearing those numbers Tuesday by approving $13.25 million by combining Level I and Level II items.

The board will consider the difference by looking at Level III items coupled with the proposed mid-year cuts at the Jan. 27 meeting. The mid-year package could amount to $11 million as block of cuts while minimizing employee layoffs, according to Messer.

“Mid-year cuts or any additional cuts need to be adopted as soon as possible to give us enough time to use one-time funds,” he said.

The board-approved Level II package included a plan of closing both Sequoia Annex ($200,000) and Lathrop Annex ($202,000), and consolidating students to the respective main sites.

“Boundaries may have to be adjusted, sending some students (at Lathrop School) to Joseph Widmer or Mossdale schools,” said Messer.

Other Level II items include:

• Students competing in prep sports could be required to pay a transportation fee of about $153 per athlete, saving the district $315,000. While the committee suggested that booster clubs could help defray some of the cost, Messer noted that those groups might be shy of any such funding.

• Bringing special education transportation in-house could come as savings of $140,000. A startup cost could be applied and absorbed under the 2008-2009 budget.

• Redefining neighborhood busing boundaries ($55,000) consisting of parts of the East Union High and Sierra High attendance areas and several elementary school sites.

• Eliminating or restructuring high school dean of activities ($120,000). The move could affect the scope and number of activities such as dances, ninth-grade student transition activities, and community service activities.

• Charge a transportation fee for extra and co-curricular activities ($150,000).

• Reducing counseling positions by four ($260,000).

• Restructuring and reducing athletic contracts ($50,000).

• Eliminating senior projects ($65,000).

• Eliminating department chair stipends ($122,400).

• Reducing the minimum half-day certificated substitute teachers to a two-hour “show up” compensation (saving yet to be determined).

• Closing all facilities to one-day a week during a five-day work week when students are not in attendance. Savings at the district office alone is estimated at $3,000.

• Continuing the hiring freeze ($1.5 million).

• Providing incentives for all employee groups to be eligible for early retirement (TBD).

• No cost of livin raises ($779,148).

• Eliminating uniforms for maintenance, grounds, and warehouse workers ($14,000).

• Doubling up for workers using maintenance vehicles ($30,000).

Meanwhile, board members Wendy King and Vern Gebhardt provided the dissenting votes on the Level II plan, with both supporting block schedule continuing to come from the general fund.

Gebhardt, who retired as athletic director at Sierra High, believes block scheduling has its share of benefits.

“Sierra High had a yearly ADA average of 93.91 from 1994 to 1999 while on a traditional schedule, and improved to 95.65 from 1999 to 2008 while on block schedule,” he said.

King said the district’s open enrollment policy made block scheduling inclusive to all students.

“Most of the (Level II) cuts affect the high schools, including 30 items to only 14 at the elementary school sites,” she added.

Trustee Nancy Teicheira along with her colleague Manuel Medeiros attended some of the budget reduction committee meetings.

She supported the efforts of the 100-member group.

“I can sit and pick apart each item but in the end where will that get us?” Teicheira asked. “We need to be fiscally responsible and go with what we have for now.”

Medeiros favors administrators taking a 5 percent pay cut.

Messer added that the board can still revisit the approved cuts at a later date.