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UPDATE: Layoffs may be in RUSD future

By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Without a defined budget from the state on education funding for the 2009-10 school year, Rocklin Unified School District officials are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.


Although the objective goal is to avoid layoffs, it is one of the options the district is considering.


At last Wednesday’s school board meeting Barbara Patterson, associate superintendent of business services, presented a rough estimate of cost-cutting options the district could implement.


Some of the options could include increasing the staffing ratio and class size by at least one student per grade level, which could save the district an estimated amount between $374,000 and $478,000 by eliminating approximately seven full time employees and combining elementary library and computer lab time to one hour instead of two, cutting an estimated $174,000 to $195,000. The rough plan for reduction in force and other cuts need to save the district somewhere between $4 and $9 million.


“I know no one wants to cut our wonderful programs, but we’re given no choice,” Patterson said.


Patterson said that big reductions are needed to maintain the 3 percent reserve, and said they’d like to bring the reserve down to one and a half percent.


“It’s just very frustrating, Superintendent Kevin Brown said. “We’re all very frustrated.”


Much of the frustration stems from a lack of budget from the state.
“We’ve got lots of plans, we just need to know what we’re planning for,” Brown said.


Until the state budget is finalized, the district is looking at numerous ways to reduce costs for the upcoming school year. One thing they plan to have is constant communication with the public on their plans, which all school board members agreed is key. The district plans to send out surveys to teachers, parents, residents and staff to gain feedback on priorities and possible cuts, Brown said. They also plan to hold community forums and workshops to gain community responses.


“We’re going to get a lot of input,” Brown said.


But the hard part may be to find consistency from the surveys, workshops and meetings, Patterson said.


“It’s hard, but before we can move forward … we have to have a balanced budget,” Brown said.


Currently the district is in the process of putting together a seniority list and sending out letters of verification of employees’ hire date and credentials, said David Pope, assistant superintendent of human resources.


“No matter what, it’s going to be a scary time,” he said.


Larry Stark, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said the district was supposed to receive $17 million in November for facilities, but that payment has yet to materialize. Stark said he now finds himself asking, “Do we have money to make payroll?”


Stark said money from facility funds needs to be borrowed for payroll.
In addition, he said two projects plan to be shut down in February and the construction of Sunset Ranch, a new elementary school, will not happen this summer, as originally planned.


Because of the budget concerns, three groups voted to rescind the .68 percent Cost of Living Adjustment salary increase agreed during the negotiations last September. Members of the Rocklin Administrative Profession Association, confidential employees and the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents voluntarily withdrew their COLA “to help out as the district works through the budget difficulties,” Brown said, which saves the district approximately $40,000 of the .68 percent COLA increase total of $400,000.


Board members expressed their appreciation for the three groups coming forward.


Even without a set budget, RUSD is looking at a realm of possibilities.
“They’re all going to be hard cuts,” board member Wendy Lang said.
Other possible options the district is currently entertaining include (some pending state authorization):
Eliminate one full time counseling position at each high school
Eliminate the equivalent of three full time administrative positions
Reduce nursing staff from four full time employees to two
Reduce elementary music programs to two full time employees
Reduce library and computer lab time per week
Eliminate early/ late crossing guards and campus supervisors
Reduce set-aside funding for opening new school by $150,000
Eliminate the Junior ROTC program at Whitney High School
Reduce the work year by one to five days
Eliminate the .68 percent salary increase


For more information, go to the RUSD Web site at www.rocklin.k12.ca.us and click on the Budget Updates/Survey link under District News on the top left side. The link includes a survey for community members on budget priorities, a message from Superintendent Brown, a preliminary budget reduction worksheet and more.


Contact Lauren Weber at laurenw@goldcountrymedia.com.