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More cuts for Rocklin Unified?

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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With declining revenue and an $8 million deficit within the next two years, the school district is preparing for all options.
To prepare for the current school year, Rocklin Unified School District had to take a close look at what could be chopped out versus what needed to stay in the district’s budget. Now they face a similar, if not worse, situation preparing for next year’s district budget.
Many of the cuts made to balance this year’s budget were one-time fixes, which have caused the district and Board of Trustees to discuss possible cuts again for next year. According to district documents, more than $8 million needs to be cut from the district’s budget within the next two school years.
Last year, more than 100 pink slips were handed out to teachers across the district, but only a handful of people were actually laid off, according to Kevin Brown, Rocklin Unified School District superintendent. Brown said more than 20 teachers opted for early retirement or left the district for other reasons.
But this year’s deficit amount is still up in the air, as the district awaits final numbers from the state.
“We just react to what the state does,” Brown said. “We have no control over our income, we just adjust our expenses.”
Barbara Patterson, associate superintendent of business services, said this year’s cuts to the budget will be “noticeable.”
“Everything is getting paid, but we are taking from other funds to make that happen,” she said.
Brown said he hopes the district can reach agreements with associations, like the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association, Rocklin Administrators Professional Association and California School Employees Association to assist with the shortfall.
While the district awaits final numbers from the state, the issue of three large district expenditures has caused some concern during a tough financial time.
The district plans to make renovations to Rocklin High School’s athletic areas, has ordered more than 200 new computers for schools and is also weighing the pros and cons in regards to opening a new elementary school in the Whitney Ranch area of Rocklin.
Revamping Rocklin High’s athletics areas
The district plans to make renovations to Rocklin High’s football field, soccer field and tennis courts, paid for through the use of a restricted fund, which means the money in the fund is restricted to use to construct, repair or modernize facilities, Brown said. It is illegal for the district to use the money elsewhere, like going into the classrooms or helping the budget deficit within their general fund.
Brown said the renovations will cost approximately $1 million used from the Capital Facilities funds, which is an accumulation of money from Mello-Roos, developer fees and state matching.
No final construction timeline has been determined yet, but Brown said, “It’s a constantly-used facility.”
Rocklin High football games have been switched to Whitney High School’s football field recently because of the field conditions at Rocklin High.
A new elementary school
Each year, as new students enter the district, a portion of the revenue received from the student through Average Daily Attendance, is set aside. A portion of the money is set aside and used to help fund a new school, which is a budget practice Rocklin Unified has, Brown said.
Currently, an almost-ready-to-use Sierra Ranch Elementary School sits within the Whitney Ranch neighborhood, while surrounding elementary schools are packed. Now the debate starts on whether the school should be opened for the 2010-11 school year or not. Either way, the district incurs costs, Brown said.
At the next school board meeting, to be held Dec. 16, board members will discuss possible options regarding the issue.
Brown said he estimates opening the new school would cost $500,000 from the general fund. Alternative options include opening the school, but splitting principal, secretarial and maintenance duties among other schools, which could dwindle the cost down to $200,000 to open. Another option would be to delay opening the school and use the money saved for the opening toward teacher’s salaries, after-school programs or other district expenses. The issue with that option then comes when the other elementary schools are impacted and a new elementary school is needed – the $500,000 to open the school would need to be found elsewhere when the time came. If the school sits empty, some expenses still incur such as fences and a small amount of security and utility bills, which could total $150,000, Brown said.
Brown said they hope to make a decision in January.
This issue will be brought up for discussion at the next school board meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at the district office, 2615 Sierra Meadows Drive.
More than 200 new computers
Schools within the district may start seeing new computers trickle into the classrooms.
More than 200 thin clients, computers that run off the server, have recently been purchased at approximately $375 a piece instead of approximately $1,100 they usually cost. The money used to purchase the computers is money raised through school sites, parent teacher club fundraisers and through a fund supporting special education.
Money from the school sites and parent teacher clubs is raised and used to help support the classroom and is money the school sites and parent teacher clubs choose where to spend, Brown said. The money from special education that went toward funding the new computers is from a restricted fund, which is restricted to use for only special education. Computers are tools the special education teachers chose to spend the funds on, Brown said.
Brown said the new computers will assist students and replace aging technology.

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