Sacramento City Unified School District trustees have approved $28 million in budget cuts that call for hundreds of employee layoffs, increasing class sizes and eliminating sports and extracurricular activities.
While these types of cuts have been met with angry crowds of parents in the past, school district officials and parents say there are fewer people attending public meetings about the cuts.
The reason? Budget burnout.
"There should be more people voicing their opinions, not less," said Joe Sison, the father of two Sacramento City Unified students. "The public should be more up in arms. I feel I am one of the few who are."
Sacramento City Unified has cut its budget in each of the past 10 consecutive years for a total of $186 million.
"You feel like you can't do much," said Naomi Bahm, who has four kids in district schools. "They just keep cutting."
Added parent Rachel Minnick: "I think apathy is a real problem."
Last year, the district approved cutting financial support for sports and extracurricular activities, pink-slipped hundreds of teachers and increased class sizes, moves the district said were needed if a tax extension was not placed on the June ballot. However, better-than-expected state revenues brought the district down from a projected $22.35 million shortfall to a $8.4 million deficit. The district was forced to cut an additional $2.5 million at midyear.
"There is a sense of the boy who cried wolf," district spokesman Gabe Ross said. "People are asking what percentage of cuts from last year were made. The information we are presenting is 100 percent accurate for what we know now. We have a responsibility to show this."
Last week, the district's trustees approved eliminating an estimated 250 full-time equivalent teachers, custodial, plant managers, counselors, maintenance, assistant principals, bus drivers and librarians. Sacramento City Unified is balancing its budget this year in hopes that the November tax measure passes. If it doesn't, the district will have to cut an additional $15 million.
"Part of the challenge is that it's always a moving target," Ross said.
"The last time around was real, too, but the May revise (of state budget projections) changed everything. We don't know what will happen this year."
School districts are required to submit a balanced budget to the Sacramento County Office of Education by March 15. Final budgets are due to the state June 30.
Because of the district's low cash flow and other financial issues, the county education office instructed it to balance the budget without items that require negotiations with collective bargaining groups.
Ross said the district has begun discussions with its teachers union and other bargaining groups about potential concessions.
In 2010, the Sacramento City Teachers Association reached an agreement with the district for teachers to take $950 pay cuts for two years in hopes of lowering class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. SCTA filed a grievance last year when the district increased class sizes in second and third grades despite the givebacks.
SCTA leadership said Thursday that the group is "working diligently with the district to resolve its budget problems."
SCTA has been outspoken in its criticism of Sacramento City Unified's use of outside contractors and the district's apparent unwillingness to close under-enrolled schools.
In December, the district shelved plans to close or consolidate five elementary schools.
However, at recent board meetings, trustees have suggested revisiting school closures and consolidations.