Targets for the ax: Jobs, heat, programs at school |

Targets for the ax: Jobs, heat, programs at school

If local high school administrators, teachers and staff do not agree to take up to five unpaid days off during the next school year, students can expect jam-packed classrooms and fewer programs.

And regardless of possible furlough days, students will bear the brunt of the district’s financial crisis in class: Budget reduction programs call for lowering the heat and raising the air conditioning temperature on thermostats to save money on utilities.

A special budget meeting Tuesday resulted in three scenarios developed to address an expected $2.1 million budget shortfall for the Nevada Joint Union High School District over the next school year. The 3,700-student district is looking at a $30 million operating budget – $6 million less than it had three years ago.

In a summary provided to The Union on Thursday, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Karen Suenram reported that, “Based on the January governor’s budget proposal for 2010-11, which results in a loss of an additional $296 per student, our district will need to cut $2.1 million for the next school year.”

State funding per student already has been reduced nearly $1,000 per year, and the district has slashed $4 million from expenses over the past two years, Suenram said.

Now, per-student funding is expected to drop again, from $6,000 per student to roughly $5,700. Enrollment districtwide also is expected to drop by 137 students during the next school year, which means the district can expect to lose an estimated $780,900 in funding on top of other state funding cuts.

What officials describe as Plan A of the three options calls for five fewer paid work days for all district employees.

That move alone would save more than $500,000, or 25 percent of the needed cuts, according to the details provided by the district. In addition, the plan calls for eliminating one administrator and several classified (non-teacher) positions; and 50 percent reductions in departmental budgets to meet the total $2.1 million shortfall.

Plan B, according to the district, calls for three fewer paid work days for all district employees, but even deeper cuts in positions and programs. It also would expand classroom size from an average of 25 to 30 students.

The third option, Plan C, proposes no reduction in work days, but drastic cuts in all programs, the elimination of at least 21 positions and classroom sizes growing from an average of 25 to 35 students.

Each plan calls for savings in energy bills (heating and air conditioning) that would, according to the documents, result in, “some discomfort.”

The high school district’s two main labor unions (teachers and classified employees) would have to agree to Plan A or Plan B, under their collective bargaining agreement process.

California’s Legislature already has given school districts permission to reduce the number of school days by five, but simply closing schools while continuing to pay teachers and other employees the same amount of money won’t close the huge budget gap, officials said.

The average teacher salary in the district is $65,954 per year, according to state figures.

District officials likely will proceed with Plan C, because laws require employees to be notified of layoffs by March 15 – which probably doesn’t allow time for the labor unions to vote on a salary reduction, Suenram said.

High school trustees are slated to meet Feb. 17 and are expected to adopt a resolution calling for the layoffs.

Administrators are slated to meet with teacher union representatives on Feb. 16, Suenram said.

All three scenarios call for the district to continue to dip into its estimated $3 million reserves.

“It’s our rainy day fund,” Suenram said. “The rainy days are here.”

To contact Editor/Publisher Jeff Ackerman, e-mail or call (530) 477-4299.

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