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Rocklin Unified looks to ballot to save budget

Proposition 30 fight heats up as schools look for relief
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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Rocklin Unified School District officials are hoping voters can save them from state mandated “trigger” cuts if Proposition 30 doesn’t pass Nov 6.

At Rocklin’s school board meeting Oct. 2, trustee Steve Paul said he wants voters to realize how cuts could affect Rocklin.
“We want them to be worried,” he said.
 
RUSD Superintendent Kevin Brown spelled out what the changes could look like.
 
“If Prop. 30 fails, we stand to lose another $4.8 million on top of the $6.5 million we have already lost the last three years,” he said.
 
“That could be devastating to our programs, result in class sizes to increase, reduce the instructional year and lay off numerous employees. I hope I don’t have to figure that one out.”
 
In Rocklin, the trigger cuts would mean 16 fewer school days, reductions in home-to-school transportation, counseling, custodial, grounds, maintenance and clerical services. According to RUSD, elementary schools could see even worse cuts to music programs and after-school athletics, and possible consolidation of elementary schools.
 
With cuts to the bone, veteran RUSD teacher and Rocklin Professional Teachers Association President Barbara Scott said she doesn’t see any excessive district expenditures.
 
“What I do see are very, very packed classrooms and very, very stressed teachers because they do not feel they can give the best services for the students,” Scott said. “We need funds in the classroom. If not this – Prop. 30 – then what?”
 
Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler, representing the no on Prop. 30 side at the Oct. 18 election forum at William Jessup University, said the state is using education cuts to scare the public into a tax increase.
 
“California doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” Uhler said.
 
Uhler compared the state legislature to an alcoholic who needs help.
 
“Before you hand the alcoholic another bottle, demand that person change themselves,” Uhler said. “They need new revenue from us to continue their habit.”
 
Uhler said even though the new revenue brought into the state coffers by the proposed tax increases with Prop. 30 is designated for schools, the equivalent amount could likely be taken out of the budget and used elsewhere.
 
“Anybody who thinks this is going to solve the schools’ problems is kidding themselves,” Uhler said.
 
In fact, RUSD officials admit they’re in deficit spending right now, relying on reserve funds as they try to keep the budget balanced.
 
“State funding for public education is illusive, ever-changing, unstable, unpredictable and a crap shoot at best,” Brown said. “We do our projections based on the information given to us at a point in time.”
 
Brown said RUSD is spending $2 million more than it is anticipating in revenue.
 
“Eventually, if things do not get better and we don’t adjust our expenditures, we will run out of funds,” Brown said.
 
Even so, Brown said enrollment numbers and – the district gets $5,400 per pupil from the state  – continue to rise in spite of the economy.
 
Another proposition that won’t trigger cuts but could add revenue to education and early childhood programs is Prop. 38. 
 
A yes vote will raise income taxes on a progressive scale starting with a 0.4 percent for those making $7,317 to 2.2 percent on incomes of more than $2.5 million for a period of 12 years. 
 
A no on Prop. 38 would not provide any additional funding for schools.
 
To look at a RUSD-prepared fact sheet on how Propositions 30 and 38 affect Rocklin schools, visit www.rocklin.k12.ca.us.
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Measure by Measure
 
Proposition 30
Voting yes
• Income taxes raised for people earning $250,000 and up for seven years
• Sales tax for everyone up by quarter-cent for four years
• Added revenue for budget gap
 
Voting no
• State cuts Rocklin schools by $4.7 million
 
Proposition 38
Voting yes
• Income taxes up 0.4 percent for those making $7,317 and up for 12 years
• Income taxes up 2.2 percent for those making $2.5 million and up for 12 years
• Added revenue for education and early childhood programs
 
Voting no
• No cuts, but no additional funding