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Brace yourself for more cuts
Manteca Unified shortfall balloons from $23.5M to $31.7M plus
Superintendent Jason Messer - photo by Bulletin file photo
It became apparent Tuesday that Manteca Unified will have to do more with less money come next school year.

Trustees received word at the school board meeting that more cuts are ahead.

Rather than a $23.5 million budget shortfall, the district is now facing a deficit of over $31.7 million.

“We will have to educate our students differently and for less (funding) in 2009-10 and the future,” Superintendent Jason Messer said.

Manteca Unified, in response to the tragic economic situation in the state coupled with the dramatic reduction in funding for education, has been forced to make proposed cuts to services, staff, programs and employee compensation.

Complicating matters was the failure in the budget initiatives at last month’s special election and revised deficit figures based on sales tax receipts.

 “For the first time, we had three revises in May,” Messer added.

In fact, he sees the budget as a moving target, requiring more revises even after the financial plan is adopted by the June 30 deadline.

In order to develop the budget, the district will look at several assumptions.

Missing is $1 million in projected savings consisting of the “no bus zone” transportation plan adopted earlier in the evening.

As for the assumptions, the list includes:

• All Level 1 and Level 2 cuts as recommended by the superintendent’s budget-reduction committee and adopted by the board.

•Administration using the flexibility granted by the state to reduce or eliminate programs which, for the 2008-09 school year, were funded using restriction funds. The money here ($3.4 million) are now unrestricted and can be used to meet the district’s general obligation.

•Eliminating class-size reduction in K-3 and ninth-grade English and math, recovering over $3.6 million by the move to be placed in the general fund for next year.

•The district can use the $10 million from the Retiree Fund in 2010-11 and 2011-12 to meet the state requirements of maintaining a balanced budget for the next two years.

•Manteca Unified is projecting an additional loss of ADA (Average Daily Attendance) of almost 250.

•The state has not yet finalized the 2009-10 budget, with administration expecting additional cuts.

The budget for the upcoming school year, including both unrestricted and restricted funds, is expected to be about $153.9 million.

And that’s with the continuing decline in ADA since 2005.

“While our budget and expenditures increased over the past five years, we are looking at a budget similar to 2005-06,” Messer said.

As for expenditures, he added that over 84 percent of budget is tied to staffing, with trustees agreeing to the across-the-board cuts to all employee groups and giving the OK to layoffs and job freezes.

Thus far, 200 teachers are expected to receive final layoff notices by June 15. Add 27 classified employees, seven supervisory posts, and 21 administration positions to the reductions.

“People may come back to their jobs but it won’t be on the budget,” said Messer, who announced rescinding 60 certified employees who received preliminary notices.

Meanwhile, the stimulus money from the Federal Government, about $6 million, is earmarked to cover some expenses for 2008-09.

These funds will also be used to address the $8 million deficit imposed by the state a month prior to the end of the school year.

About 50 percent of the 2009-10 Federal stimulus money restricted for special education and Title 1 programs, instead, can be used for the general fund, according to Messer.

“(This year’s budget) is a very complex issue,” he said. “We’ll have to look at staffing not just one school site but for all of them.”

Once the budget is approved and submitted to the state, the district will wait until the 45-day revise to make possible changes for 2009-10 or possibly cover any cost left over from the recent school year.