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Trustees must pay their own way plus expenses to school-related conferences
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Besides educators, administrators, and support staff, Manteca Unified school board members are also being asked to take cuts.

Elected officials each earn about $400 a month coupled with a health care package, according to board President Michael Seelye.

“What I get in pay I give right back to the students,” said the Delta College instructor at last week’s school board meeting.

Seelye, for example, forked out for the helium-filled balloons and other items for improved Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) celebration that took place at French Camp School earlier in the school year.

During these tough economic times, board members with hopes of attending state conferences must also pay and provide their own accommodations.

Manteca Unified, meanwhile, must trim the budget for the remainder of this year ($3.5 million) as well as the 2009-10 ($23.5 million) school year.

In order to the achieve the goal for the latter, the district has attempted to negotiate reductions with the respective unions, implement Level 1 and Level 2 cuts – as recommended by Superintendent Jason Messer’s 100-member budget reduction committee – and eliminate several categorical programs.

“The goal of balancing the budget while minimizing or eliminating employees who are unemployed for the 2009-10 school year is still attainable,” Messer recently said.

Manteca Unified also has a hiring freeze in place (90-plus jobs listed provide a savings of $1.8 million) with other budget flexibility options including the reduction of routine restricted maintenance set-aside requirement, from 3 percent to 1 percent of the general fund expenditures.

The district has plans of eliminating tier III categorical programs ($4.9 million) – this includes adult education, Advanced Placement Grant, counselors (grades 7 through 12), Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), deferred maintenance, California High School Exit Exam intervention grants, state assessments (STAR, CAHSEE, etc.) and Indian Education Center, to name a few – and transferring these funds to the general fund.

The board recently approved an early retirement plan for classified and certified employees over age 50 and with five years of service. Over 500 employees of the district are eligible for the plan.

The proposed early retirement incentives could result in savings to the district.

Five of the six employee groups have agreed to take 5 percent pay cuts.

“Successful negotiations which reflect an across the board cut in employee compensation of about 5 percent  will help us avoid additional layoffs and rescind upwards of the 80 percent layoff notices already issued,” Messer said.