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Manteca Unified staff sweats - literally & figuratively - the small stuff to save money
Parents and students wait in the hallway on the first day of instruction last week at Lincoln School. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Little savings add up quickly.

The Manteca Unified School District board understands that all too well as the “budget crisis” starts its sixth year.

A prime example is cutting back the time campuses open and close by a half hour before and a half hour after school. It saves an hour of compensation - and connected payroll costs - for a playground supervisor.

There are a few parents - who for the most part understand what the district is up against - grumble about the fact they can’t drop their children off a half hour earlier than they did a few years back. They argue it is only saving a few dollars in reduced hours for the playground supervisors.

But those few dollars multiplied by 175 instructional days by 30 campuses can add up. The annual savings to Manteca Unified is $414,000.

That translates into compensation - benefits and pay - for about eight to nine teachers at the entry level.

Watching pennies that can save dollars has become a way of life in Manteca Unified.

“We question expenditures even if they are just a hundred or so dollars,” said Superintendent Jason Messer.

It is why air conditioning goes off for the final two hours of the work day no matter how uncomfortable it gets on a 105-degree day. It is why a good neighbor gesture such as relocating a gate at the Sierra High campus to avoid creating traffic problems is thoroughly evaluated.

“If it costs several hundred dollars to move the gate (on Fishback Road) we will probably do it but if it is several thousand dollars we  really have to question whether we can afford to do so even if it means being a good neighbor,” Messer said.

The exercise with the gate is typical for almost every expenditure school staff considers.

The eagle eye on expenditures and delaying spending if at all possible is starting to catch up with the district, though, when it comes to maintenance.

Manteca Unified has repeatedly postponed some basic maintenance to conserve money to direct as much funds to the classroom as possible. But now the district after five years has no choice but to spend money in some cases.

The district delayed sealing cracks in playgrounds to save money. Now some of the cracks are “big enough that a kid can twist their ankle” prompting the district to go ahead and spend the money.

Playground equipment that gets worn and becomes a safety hazard is now simply removed and not replaced.

Other maintenance has to be done such as re-roofing that was deferred to avoid leaks from triggering significantly more expenses.