More cuts, layoffs coming?

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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Facing an $8 million deficit for next year, Rocklin Unified is weighing the options. Similar to the process Rocklin Unified School District went though last year to make up for the budget shortfall, board members are preparing to re-address the possibilities of cuts, layoffs and furloughs. “I really want to encourage you that we can work together on this and weather this really gigantic storm we are facing now,” said Barbara Scott, president of Rocklin Teachers Professional Association. Last year, Rocklin Teachers Professional Association members voted to implement furlough days to save the district money and layoffs. This year, however, may call for ongoing cuts, said Barbara Patterson, associate superintendent of business services. “This is going to be a very long, protracted recovery,” she said. “It costs more over time to make cuts using one-time money.” Patterson said the district needs to have a balanced budget by June 30 and board members have begun to discuss possible cuts. Cost-saving possibilities include increasing grades nine through 12 staffing ratios from 33 students to one teacher, to 34 or 35 students to one teacher, which could save the district between approximately $244,000 and $476,000. Other options include slashing transportation costs, meaning more out-of-pocket costs for families, and furlough days. A budget reduction workshop will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the district office board room, 2615 Sierra Meadows Drive. In addition to the lack of state funding, the district is considering the opening of a new elementary school in the Whitney Ranch developments. Rocklin resident Kevin Morris lives blocks away from Sunset Ranch Elementary School. “Every day, I get up and pull out my driveway and 30 seconds later, I’m looking at a beautiful, brand-new school,” Morris said. “It’s not just about the money, it’s about the kids. Rocklin deserves it, the parents deserve it and most importantly the kids deserve it.” Morris was one of more than a dozen parents who shared their views favoring the opening of the school for the 2010-11 school year. Larry Stark, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, broke down the expenditures associated with not opening the school versus opening the school next year. Maintenance and operation costs for not opening the school in the fall total approximately $150,000, which includes an estimate of $50,000 for Pacific Gas & Electric utilities, $23,000 for property casualty insurance and $17,000 for grounds-keeping. If the school opens for the 2010-11 school year, it will cost the district approximately $257,000 with a principal shared among two elementary schools. If the approximately $400,000 set aside for the opening of a new school, is used elsewhere to make up for the budget deficit, overcrowding current schools becomes an issue. “We’re going to eventually open the school and we’re going to need that money eventually,” said trustee Steve Paul. Some parents at the board meeting brought up other issues concerning the school not opening, including transportation trouble with children at different schools and wanting a school close to their homes. Lincoln resident Jennifer Hanks said she moved to Lincoln for the affordability, but always planned to have her children attend Rocklin schools. “I think that we should use the money which is there to open the school,” Hanks said.