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School cuts may hit bus drivers in pocketbook
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Manteca Unified’s mid-year cut package as proposed by Acting Superintendent Jason Messer could put a damper on transportation.

Included is $9.5 million in addition to the nearly $14 million scheduled for trimming for the 2009-10 budget.

The mid-year cuts will also affect the current school year.

“My intention is not to pitch one way or another on  these cuts,” Messer said at the public information session held Tuesday at the new Administration Building.

Another meeting is planned for Thursday, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the same location.

Gone would be high school busing, according to the latest plan, with the possible savings hovering at about $425,000. Some drivers could be reassigned to the Student First in-house bus plan for special education — the district currently contracts out for this service — while nearly half of the force (23) may lose benefit packages.

Manteca Unified employs about 60 drivers.

Losing busing at the high school sites also puts ADA or Average Daily Attendance funds at risk. For public schools, the ADA is the formula used to determine the number of students actually present or excused for absence on each school day. Manteca Unified receives funding per youngster based on these figures.

Thus far, the school board stands about $1 million shy of its goal of $14 million in savings for next year’s financial plan as needed by June 30 deadline. Trustees could look at the Level III items formulated by the 100-member budget reduction committee along with some to be identified for the mid-year cuts.

“This is only a proposal that could be considered by the board by Tuesday (Jan. 27),” Messer said.

That’s the next time the board is scheduled to convene. Open session begins at 7 p.m.

Messer indicated that the mid-year cuts may mean taking a hit on certain funding.

Take ADA, for example.

The plan being formulated in Sacramento — the state legislature and the governor’s office has yet to settle on a budget — may recommend a reduction on revenue limit.

“Instead of $100 per student, it could be $85 (per kid) at Manteca Unified,” Messer said.

The mid-year cuts also accounts for a loss of funds based on going from 180 days to 175 days - Messer said the district must negotiate with the unions on this matter — declining enrollment, and possibly deeper cuts from the state.

“This is dependent on the current proposal being passed,” he said of the latter.

The next series of cuts could benefit those looking into early retirement.

“It will cost us in the beginning but could save us in the long run,” Messer said.

Those seeking early retirement or resignation - a notice letter must be submitted to the district office by Feb. 25 — would receive a $1,000 bonus, in turn, leaving the district to employees who are lower on the pay scale.

Messer also noted that the latest proposal minimizes on letting go employees. And while notices may soon go out in the mail, the board could still have the option of rescinding the layoffs.

Other cuts could include:

• Cleaning every other day ($1.25 million in savings). This move could mean laying off vacant positions on the hiring freeze list and not supplying subs for these positions, and the current custodial staff being reassigned to help out at the other sites.

• Raising class size reduction to an additional student, from 34 to 35, for fourth- through 12th- grades ($750,000). No loss of jobs.

• Rolling out of the class-size reduction plan for kindergarten- through third- grade students ($425,000). This would raise the student-to-teacher ratio (currently 20-to-1) cap and allow the district with the flexibility of using the state funds elsewhere other than class-size reduction.

• Eliminating three to four school psychologist positions ($320,000). The move could leave teachers having to handle additional responsibilities.

• Eliminating or reducing substitute teachers at the high school level ($250,000). Secondary education instructors, in turn, would be required to forgo their prep period and fill in at the classroom without time sheet compensation.

• Eliminating ninth-grade class size reduction ($160,000). At least four teaching positions could be lost not to mention the tutorial sessions to help those freshmen in their area of deficiency in the California High School Exit Exam.

• Eliminating lead speech therapist and psychologist ($150,000). The loss of two positions.

• Cutting the contributions to the after-school MUST sports ($150,000). The district could move $75,000 in lottery money while MUST could try to offset the difference through cuts or increased gate fees.

• Reducing extra days for ag teachers ($50,000). This could mean loss of programs for students during the weekends and summer during the San Joaquin County Fair.

• Doing away with the contract that calls for the use of drug-sniffing dogs ($20,000).

The information session also enabled the public to post their questions and other concerns for the next week’s school board meeting.

For more information, call the district office at (209) 825-3200 or visit the website, .