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Classroom crisis

Budget cuts passed by legislators Friday won’t affect Nevada County classrooms this school year, but educators will be “knuckling down” for layoffs and more cuts next year, officials said.

Schools can dodge the bullet this year because the state is making up for part of the deficit by grabbing $507 million that hasn’t been spent for special school programs such as enrichment classes and afterschool care, local educators said. Local schools were not banking on getting that money, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen said.

The state also will delay payments to local school districts July through September, forcing officials to scramble to make payroll, said Karen Suenram, assistant superintendent of business for the Nevada Joint Union High School District. The state will hang on to the money to earn interest, she added.



The high school district may have to borrow the money and pay interest to bridge the state’s delayed payments, Suenram said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the budget today, the Associated Press reported Friday.




Friday’s budget cuts of $2 billion were the first steps taken by California lawmakers to offset the $14.5 billion budget deficit looming for the fiscal year starting July 1. That still leaves enormous cuts on the horizon. The high school district is offering retirement incentives to teachers nearing retirement in anticipation of more budget axing in the 2008-09 school year.

Another area hit by lawmakers’ budget axe is health care.

The 10-percent reduction in health care funding approved Friday could cost Nevada County the annual equivalent of $150,000, depending on when the cuts come, said Joe Christoffel, deputy county executive officer.

If the cuts come March 1, the county would have to trim $62,000 from the current year’s budget, he estimated.

Christoffel said he wasn’t anticipating the county to cut any services – but was expecting the county would make up any reduction in state funding from the county’s reserve funds.

“The budget is in flux right now,” Christoffel said. “This is just the Legislature’s response to the governor’s proposed budget. The governor and legislators would have to reach a mutual agreement.”

The California Medical Association said in a press release that the proposed 10 percent cuts to Medi-Cal – the state’s program that funds health services to low-income families – would “leave millions of Californians stranded with reduced or no access to critical health care needs … Medi-Cal patients will be forced into emergency rooms for their primary care, driving up costs and compromising access to emergency services for all Californians.”

State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R- Grass Valley, who voted for the budget Friday, said the proposal unfairly targets Medi-Cal provider rates.

“At this point, it is too early for us to know the impact (Friday’s budget cuts) will have on our hospital,” said Brett Bentley, spokeswoman for Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

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To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail ssen@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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