By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Next cuts could cut to the bone
Manteca Unified looking ahead to 2010-11
Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer during a budget reduction committee meeting in January. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Expenses are going to increase next fiscal year for Manteca Unified by upwards of $4.5 million.

It covers things that the school board has little control over. They run the gamut from step increases in teacher pay based on longevity and additional college units to retirement benefit costs and jumps in utility and gas prices.

It is what Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer refers to as “the normal cost of doing business.”

That looming budget increase, though, is the big wild card. Instead, it is what Sacramento will do now that they have another budget deficit projected to reach $21 billion over the next 18 months.

Manteca Unified could be hit with a $30 million surprise if the state reneges on its commitment to provide school districts by this spring with money already deferred once. Messer said Manteca Unified could get by the rest of this fiscal year with borrowing from internal accounts.

In that aspect, Manteca Unified is in better shape than many surrounding districts that are now facing massive budget cuts now even before the school year reaches the midway point because they did most of the internal borrowing they could to cushion the depth of cuts before the start of the current school year.

Messer credited the school board last December in taking the conservative approach when they found out they may have to cut $30 million. They opted to go with the worst case scenario based on data they were being supplied.

Since personnel costs account for 77 percent of the budget, the cuts were primarily accomplished by reducing staff. It was accomplished by 275 positions being eliminated, teachers taking a 1.8 percent pay cut, classified and supervisory employees taking a 5 percent pay cut, and administration having their pay reduced 5 percent.

The district’s cash flow has also improved to the point that school sites are being allowed to spend a part of their site budget for supplies that includes classroom materials.

While Manteca Unified may seem to be in better position now than other districts, ultimately all school district will be basically in the same financial boat by the start of the 2011-12 fiscal year.

And cuts will still be needed next year to pay for increases in the “cost of doing business” plus to cover whatever cuts in school funding the California Legislature may impose for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

The gap is projected to be around $7 million once all variables that are now on the table are factored into the equation.

That is where the real challenge comes in. There isn’t that much more left that could be cut without major impacts. The state will allow school districts to scrap summer school and adult school if they so chose to bridge any future gaps. The so-called flexibility money when all available options are tossed in comes to $3 million

The district could come up with another $3 million by cutting back the school year as far as the state will allow in a move that would effectively cut base teacher pay.

The only other sizeable savings is to eliminate all elementary vice principal positions. Such a move would save $1 million but Messer fears it would create major problems for elementary schools that would have upwards of 1,200 students with only one on-site administrator.

None of those cuts appeal to Messer but in reality they may be the only options open to Manteca Unified when times comes to balance next fiscal year’s budget.

Messer said such moves to balance the budget would be cutting some aspects of the district “to the bone.”