Though he is hesitant to commit to a number, Lodi Unified School District's Doug Barge said anticipated federal stimulus funds could save a number of school district employees that have already received pink slips.
This news came following the school board's decision Tuesday to lay off another handful of part-time classified employees, bringing the total number of layoffs to about 424 districtwide.
Although there seemed to be a glimmer of hope at the meeting, the board has had to cut millions from its budget heading into next school year due to a shortfall in state money and a historic drop in enrollment.
According to the latest figures, there are 560 fewer students than last school year. Districts receive per-pupil funding next school year based on the number enrolled this school year. The current drop translates to about $4.5 million in lost revenue for 2009-10, according to Barge, the district's chief business official.
"I'm kind of encouraged by the numbers," he said of a slowdown in the decline over the last couple of months. "It shows us the decline is hopefully beginning to end."
Although the district's budget won't be voted on until next month, trustees unanimously supported a number of recommendations based on anticipated federal money. Those decisions will pave the way for June's budget adoption.
"This is prudent for the time," teachers' union president Sue Kenmotsu said of the decision and the pending special election. "We still have information we don't know. … Until they count the last ballots, the glass is still half full."
Lodi Unified School District layoffs at a glanceSince February, the board of trustees has passed a number of resolutions related to layoffs. They tally:
224.74 certificated employees* (including administrative positions)
209 classified employees**
Unlike other area districts, none of the notices have been rescinded.
Under law, certificated employees must be notified by March 15 that their services are not needed for the following school year, while classified employees are required a 45-day notice. Those notices will be distributed in the coming days.
* Figures reflect "full time equivalents" and may not fully represent the exact number of certificated employees who have been affected by the layoffs. The district is waiting for the Office of Administrative Hearings and the presiding judge to issue orders, which will, in turn, be taken to the school board for approval, according to Ellen S. Welt, director of certificated personnel. At that time, the district will know the exact number of people who will be affected by the layoff process.
** Includes elimination of positions and reduction in hours of both fulland part-time employees. However, a number of them are currently vacant, according to Elliott Grauman, director of classified personnel.
Source: Lodi Unified School District
But at least one board member was not happy with the district's process.
"I'm a little uncomfortable making decisions piece by piece on the budget," said trustee Calvin Young, who ended up joining his colleagues in support of the recommendations.
Under Barge's proposal, stimulus funds could save more than three library assistants at the elementary level and four counselors across all grades, as well as return some employees to special education.
But, he cautioned, the federal money is a one-time allocation, and next year the board could be in a similar spot when it comes to layoffs.
The board's vote Tuesday will also set aside in reserves the minimum 3 percent and minimize further class reductions in all subjects in the ninth through 12th grades.
"This seems to take into consideration how to best serve our students, our classrooms," trustee Jeff Thompson said of the recommendations. "This is managing a budget in a state of chaos."
In other action Tuesday, trustees:
- Accepted a number of board policy revisions in an annual review.
- Approved replacing the heating and air conditioning system in 15 classrooms at Lakewood Elementary School at a cost of $596,749.
- Recognized more than a dozen vocational education students and school employees, including Teacher of the Year Patty Radotic from Millswood Middle School.
- Postponed Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer's annual review in closed session.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.