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An in-depth look at the effect of California’s new budget on the Lodi area

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Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:10 am, Mon Jul 18, 2011.

The recently adopted state budget will influence schools and government in the Lodi area in diverse ways. Here is a summary:

Lodi Unified School District

What’s been cut:

  • 177 certificated layoff notices were issued in the spring, although this was partially due to other reasons. Stimulus funding has run out, and declining enrollment has also required fewer teachers.

Since then, 102 people have been called back for employment, according to Assistant Superintendent Michael McKilligan.

  • One classified position.
  • Each school site has had its co-curricular budget reduced by 10 percent. This includes sports, academic competitions and clubs.
  • Class sizes will remain large through at least 2013-14, although there are plans to make them smaller than last school year.

In 2011-12, staffing ratios are expected to be 29 students to 1 teacher in kindergarten through third grade; 32 to 1 for fourth through sixth grade; and 34 to 1 for seventh through 12th grade, according to Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer.

What’s still in jeopardy:

Home-to-school transportation may be eliminated, although that may not be discussed until mid-year when the state’s so-called state revenue shortfall trigger is pulled. Under that, money anticipated this fiscal year will likely not be paid until next fiscal year under the new state budget.

Legislators can cut up to $250 per student if the state faces a $2 billion revenue shortfall in January.

To cope, districts will be allowed to cut the school year by seven days, but that will require local union negotiations, according to Chief Business Officer Tim Hern, who provided the school board with an update last week.

“As for our budget plan, we planned for this,” Hern said regarding the loss in student funding. “We calculated slighting higher than that, and have money in reserves.”

Contingencies:

The district is facing $41 million in money that will be deferred by the state, and will likely be forced to take out a low-interest loan in the spring, Hern said.

This will cover ongoing expenses such as payroll. To cover the $41 million deferral, the loan will be equal to 20 to 25 percent of the district’s budget, according to Hern.

Last year, a similar loan cost the district $300,000 in fees, he added.

Galt Joint Union High School District

What’s been cut:

The equivalent of 17 layoff notices districtwide were issued due to a $2.2 million shortfall, but the district has since rescinded some. Among those are a net seven certificated positions, six classified employees and the equivalent of one half-time certificated management employee.

“At this time, we do not see any changes in the layoffs approved by the board for the 2011-12 school year,” Chief Business Official Audrey Kilpatrick said.

Personnel, other compensation cuts:

The state’s budget will likely have little effect on layoffs, since the teachers’ union is still in contract negotiations with the district.

A negotiation meeting is scheduled for next month for certificated employees. The classified union’s tentative labor agreement was approved by the school board Tuesday.

Contingencies:

The district’s 2011-12 adopted financial plan budgeted flat funding, which is the same as the state’s final budget.

The state budget does not appear to provide any additional funding for the district, according to Kilpatrick.

Oak View Union Elementary School District

What’s been cut:

  • Supplemental programs such as summer school and the afterschool program.
  • The work year for all staff has been reduced for 2011-12 only. Teachers typically work 187 days, but will only work 185 this year while the superintendent’s work year has been reduced from 220 days to 218. This will not affect students, according to Superintendent Beverly Boone.

Personnel, other compensation cuts:

Oak View already planned for the loss of two full-time maintenance and operations positions (but were able to add a part-time custodian and part-time bus driver), reducing the school year and thus pay for two days next school year and reducing school board members’ health benefit cap.

The instructional year is still 180 days, and teachers will get five prep days — three before school begins and two after school gets out in June.

Galt Joint Union Elementary School District

What’s been cut:

Facing a $2.4 million shortfall, trustees issued 48 certificated layoff notices but restored some of those positions in May.

“At this time, we have not moved forward to restore additional teaching positions since the budget was passed,” Superintendent Karen Schauer said, adding that staff wants to carefully consider upcoming state budget information before deciding on the next steps.

Additionally, the equivalent of 2.5 full-time classified employees were cut due to lack of funding. Among them were outreach consultants.

What’s still in jeopardy:

If the district restores positions and the trigger goes into effect, Schauer said trustees could vote to eliminate home-to-school bus transportation services and/or take an additional seven student days. However, seven additional furlough days would need to be bargained with unions.

But that would have to happen quickly, as the state will not weigh pulling that trigger until it assesses tax receipts in December.

The number of student instructional days, too, may be reduced for the 2011-12 school year. Should the calendar change, the first of day of school (Aug. 22) and holiday breaks would remain the same.

Personnel, other compensation cuts:

Because of the uncertainty of state funding, trustees here have been discussing three budgeting scenarios for the past several months. The one they ultimately approved on June 23 included across-the-board salary cuts to a number of positions. However, if the state funds education at a higher level, the compensation reductions could be reversed or lowered.

Among the two dozen affected positions are the superintendent, and other district administrators such as principals and vice principals, supervisors and confidential employees.

For example, Schauer will take either seven or 12 furlough days, while other administrators could see either six or 10 furlough days.

Contingencies:

The Sacramento County Office of Education serves as the district’s fiscal oversight agency. Staff members there are preparing a letter for Sacramento County school districts that will assist the with pending decisions, Schauer said.

“The state revenue shortfall trigger is one example of the adopted state budget that we seek more clarification on,” Schauer said.

School board president John Gordon called the legislation that created the trigger a quagmire.

“It's fiscally irresponsible and potentially devastating,” he said.

San Joaquin County Public Defender’s Office

Since the San Joaquin County Public Defender’s Office stopped taking new cases in Lodi last year, the proposed budget will not have any affect on the operations in town, said Peter Fox, the head of the county’s public defender’s office.

The office stopped representing new clients in Lodi last July as part of reductions in its budget. The cases they normally handled have been transferred to the San Joaquin County Lawyer Referral Service.

Despite the cutbacks, the office is still losing positions. The office just trimmed eight additional positions last week, he said. Five clerical workers, two attorneys and an investigator were laid off Friday, Fox said.

“The total number of attorneys, clerical workers and supervisors is 63,” he said. “That’s down from 100 three years ago.”

Unlike the county district attorney, which shuttered satellite offices in Manteca and Lodi to pare down its budget, the public defender’s office does not have brick-and-mortar structures to scale back on, Fox said.

“We don’t have a large services and supply budget,” he said. “When we make cuts, it’s in personnel.”

San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office

The district attorney’s office closed its satellite offices in Lodi and Manteca earlier this month due to budget cuts. The office had its budget reduced by 41 percent since 2009, and the county administrator’s office recommended a 10 percent reduction in net county costs for 2011-2012, according to the San Joaquin County Grand Jury. The 10 percent reduction works out to about $1.8 million of the district attorney’s budget, the Grand Jury said.

The office could be afforded some financial relief in the form of a vehicle license fee that ends this month. However, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a ballot measure to extend those fees. State funds from vehicle license fees provide the office with about $500,000 for prosecution expenses. If the measure fails, the revenue will not be given to the district attorney’s office next fiscal year.

San Joaquin County Superior Court

The entire state’s court system, especially the courts in San Joaquin County, will be severely affected by the state’s budget, said Stephanie Bohrer, public information officer for San Joaquin County Superior Court.

“The budget dealt a crippling blow to the courts,” Bohrer said. “An additional $150 million was taken from the trial courts, and $300 million from court construction funds in spite of strenuous opposition by court leaders.”

Judicial branch leaders across the state sent a letter to Brown, Assembly members and state senators to voice their opposition to further cuts to the state’s court systems. It was signed by more than 60 judges and executive court officers from around the state. San Joaquin County is especially vulnerable, according to the letter dated June 30.

“San Joaquin County will not be able to maintain the level of service it has provided to the public,” the letter read. “Changes as a result of further funding reductions are anticipated to include the closing of the entire Tracy court branch of the courts, the elimination of one of the Lodi — leaving the remaining court open to handle only in-custody criminal matters, the elimination of certain case types, including small claims hearings, fish and game hearings and possibly civil cases.”

The court clerk’s office hours were also reduced last year, reducing the amount of time the public has access to records. Fewer hours for public access are expected as a result of cuts, according to the letter.

City of Lodi

The city expects to lose $130,000 for fiscal year 2011, which started on July 1.

The state is changing the way it calculates the motor vehicle tax and is diverting about $230,000 of what was the previously the city’s money to the state’s General Fund, city spokesman Jeff Hood said.

But the state is then giving back $100,000 of the takeaway to be used only for police services, he said.

“It seems more and more often the state turns to the cities to solve its financial problems,” Hood said. “We don’t have the same options or flexibility to offset these impacts.”

After spending months balancing the budget, Hood said the city will have to once again study the budget and make more cuts.

“We will just have to absorb it somehow. It’s all about reduced services, and we are monitoring expenses very closely. Things just get tighter and tighter,” Hood said.

City of Galt

They city of Galt could potentially lose over $1 million from the city’s budget as a result of the state budget.

A major redevelopment project, originally meant to cost the city roughly $225,000, will now have roughly $1 million tacked on to the project should city officials want to keep the project afloat.

The $1 million is a repercussion of major budget cuts hitting cities across the state after state legislators passed two bills placing strict regulations on redevelopment agencies.

The Old Town Properties Relocation Plan, a major redevelopment project Galt was hoping would help improve the Old Town area, was slated to move forward after the City Council voted on it at their Tuesday meeting this past week.

But the project has been halted indefinitely because state law now requires that either the city pay the $1 million to keep the agency open, or the city dissolve the agency altogether.

In addition to the $1 million the city may choose to spend to keep their redevelopment agency open, the city would also have to pay the state an additional $240,000 the following year to keep the agency afloat. In total, the city would have to spend $1.24 million in addition to the $225,000 to move forward with the Old Town project.

Also, Galt will lose about $80,000 due to the fact that state legislators elected to eliminate vehicle license fees. These fees, established in lieu of a property tax on vehicles, are paid to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which returns almost all fee revenue to cities and counties.

“That money could be put towards police services or parks and recreation,” said Jason Behrmann, Galt’s city manager. “We counted on receiving that money to put as part of our budget. It’s a big hit financially for us.”

San Joaquin County

It may be several weeks before county officials know exactly how the state budget will affect the county, according to Assistant County Administrator Rosa Lee.

However, how the state budget for Health and Human Services will affect county residents is known. For example, welfare payments will be reduced by 8 percent, effective July 1, and the time limit of welfare-to-work will be shortened from 60 months to 48, county Human Service Agency Director Joe Chelli said. That will affect 18,000 county households that receive welfare and training to enter the workforce.

Other state cuts to human services:

  • Eliminated Cal-Learn, which was designed to reduce teen pregnancies and teen parents’ long-term welfare dependency. Now, teens will be case-managed like all other human service programs.
  • Reduced supplemental grants for severely disabled people on Social Security by $15 per month.

Additionally, the state will require a medical doctor to sign a form indicating that a patient would benefit by in-home support services, where the elderly receive professional care in their homes that often keeps them from having to live in nursing homes. This will affect about 6,200 people in San Joaquin County.

A cost that will hit motorists in the pocketbook will be a $12 vehicle assessment fee to take effect when they next register their car, Lee said. It will go into a state “public safety fund” that will be forwarded to counties that will have the task of absorbing new public safety duties from the state.

The state will reimburse the county with “realignment” funds, but Lee and Chelli aren’t confident about whether the state will reimburse the full cost of the realigned program.

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