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Next cuts: The deepest?
Brace yourself as Manteca now must slash $23.5M
Home to school busing for high school students may be cut to save $425,000. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Sacramento’s failure to stop the current state budget hemorrhaging means Manteca Unified must now cut $9.5 million for the current school year on top of $14 million in cuts being made for the school year starting July 1.

The money the state promised Manteca Unified — and nearly 1,000 other local school districts throughout California —  last summer isn’t in the state coffers to give. The state’s financial situation is so dire that they expect to start issuing IOUs to employees, vendors and even taxpayers due state income refunds starting next month.

The $9.5 million in cuts must also be extended into next school year due to the state’s dire financial situation created by a 20-month deficit projected to hit $40 billion.

Even though the board must now deal with a double whammy when it comes to the Manteca Unified’s $170 million operating budget, the trustees won’t be forced to consider closing any more schools. The Sequoia Annex and Lathrop Annex are being put on ice next school year as part of cuts already approved.

Thus far, the board has identified $13.25 million of the $14 million in needed budget cuts from the combined Level I and Level II items made possible by the acting Superintendent Jason Messer’s budget reduction committee.

On Tuesday, Messer unveiled a mid-year cut package — included are Level III cuts for consideration — to the board consisting of about $11 million in savings.

The plan encourages retirement incentives and possibly shifting of some categorical funds to general funds.

“We have a starting point for discussion at our next meeting,” said Messer, referring to the Jan. 27 session.

“Everything (in cuts) will be on the table,” he added.

The cuts up for consideration include:

• Reducing employee contracts by two additional days and up to five days ($7 million). A proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger calls for instruction days for public schools to be reduced from 180 days to 175 days. That means employee pay will be cut by those days.

• Eliminating or reducing substitute teachers at the high schools ($250,000). Such a move could require secondary teachers foregoing their prep period and working as a substitute without further compensation.

• Conducting cleaning every other day ($1.25 million). Custodial positions could be reduced.

• Doing away with the drug dogs ($35,000). The district has a contract to bring the drug-sniffing dogs when needed on campus.

• Raising class sized reduction by one in fourth- through 12th- grade classrooms without layoffs (about $750,000). The move could impact teachers, counselors and students not to mention the master schedules.

• Eliminating high school transportation ($425,000). At stake would be two bus operator jobs along with removing 23 positions from benefit eligibility and possibly Average Daily Attendance revenue particularly if students are unable to get to school.

• Slowly doing away with the 20-to-1 ratio class sized reduction for kindergarten- through third- grade students without layoffs ($415,000). Messer said that this would be absolutely the last resort since the move directly affects teachers and students.

• Eliminating class sized reduction for ninth-grade students without layoffs ($160,000). This move affects the least amount of teachers’ jobs and also has the most net savings on a per teacher basis on the class sized reduction options.

• Reducing the number of school psychologists ($320,000). Using special education teachers and support staff to cover in that role could cause compliance issues along legal problems.

• Reducing the amount spent on deferred maintenance (savings still to be determined).

• Eliminating lead speech therapist and lead psychologist ($150,000). Like the school psychologists, the move might cause compliance issues and legal problems, and complaints from parents.

• Reducing extra days for ag teachers ($50,000). Gone could be the weekend and summer programs for students.

• Cutting contributions to MUST sports ($150,000). The Manteca Unified School Trust would have to find other ways of raising funds.

Messer said the latest cut package offers minimal layoffs.

“There’s no [additional] closing of schools or annexes,” he said. “The board has given its OK on negotiating items — that’s a starting point.”m