Cash crunch squeezes Nevada City schools |

Cash crunch squeezes Nevada City schools

This week, it’s Nevada City School District’s turn to feel the hurt.

Following closely behind other Nevada County school districts’ painful proceedings with layoffs, school closures and program cuts, district leaders are looking tonight at recommendations to skim $1 million from a $9 million budget.

Preliminary steps for layoffs are also up for board consideration at today’s meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. at district offices, 800 Hoover Lane.

“Eighty-six percent of our budget is personnel,” said Superintendent Roxanne Brown Gilpatric. “I don’t know how to explain enough how sensitive we are to that.”

The list of possible ways to reduce spending ranges from consolidating schools and making the superintendent position a half-time job, to reducing the number of school days.

“We’re looking at all avenues,” said Board of Trustees President Trish Gerving.

A resolution before the board tonight would start the process for laying off three teacher to compensate for declining enrollment. About 1,200 elementary and middle school students are enrolled, but numbers have declined for 15 years.

Up until now, staff retirements usually have offset the declining need for teachers.

But this time around, only one district employee has planned to retire – not nearly enough to compensate for the 90-student decline the district saw between October 2008 and October 2009, and even more who have left in the past few months.

The area’s aging population and job losses among parents, forcing them to seek work elsewhere, may have contributed to the decline, Gilpatric said. In addition, Nevada City tends to have higher housing costs than other parts of the western county, making it difficult for young families to settle in the district.

Other measures are on tap to alleviate strained ledger sheets. A committee met last week to suggest places to downsize and came up with a list of 80 possible cuts.

Whether cuts lead to a school closure – a decision south county’s Pleasant Ridge Union School District made last week – remains to be seen.

But the layoffs are perhaps the most distressing prospect for a staff of about 70 teachers.

“If you’re a teacher, it’s difficult to get another job,” Gilpatric said, adding that districts all over the state are shedding jobs. “Some of our young teachers will have to leave the profession.”

Tonight’s meeting will be the first time the board examines the dollars and cents of specific, potential cuts.

To this point, they’ve been developing a set of “budget guidelines” meant to direct district spending in good times and bad.

On the “core values” list: Supporting and maintaining student achievement, including core subjects, arts programs and physical education, and retaining high-quality teachers and staff.

“They feel very strongly about keeping a balanced core program,” Gilpatric said.

She called the board “cohesive” and “thoughtful,” saying members would look at the recommended cuts and “weigh each one seriously.”

“These are very difficult times,” Gilpatric said.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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