Bucking fiscal advice, Twin Rivers board rejects layoff notices

Published: Sunday, Mar. 10, 2013 - 2:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 10, 2013 - 8:23 am

The Twin Rivers Unified school board decided last week not to issue layoff notices for next school year, a move that could leave the north area district in financial trouble.

The board ignored district staff members who recommended sending preliminary pink slips to 74 teachers and counselors, as well as 23 support workers.

"I'm asked to vote blindly, so I can't do it," said board member Linda Fowler at the Tuesday meeting. "It's based on a (fiscal) report that I think has some serious problems."

The layoffs would have saved the district $9.1 million, said Kate Ingersoll, executive director of fiscal services for the district.

Without layoff notices, Twin Rivers officials will have to find savings elsewhere to avoid compromising its financial status with the state, according to David Gordon, Sacramento County schools chief.

School districts across the state must send preliminary pink slips by March 15 to any teacher, nurse or counselor who may be laid off at the end of the school year.

The deadline, however, falls well before the state finalizes its budget, so districts usually send far more preliminary notices in March than needed as a precautionary measure.

In the past three years, Twin Rivers Unified sent 687 preliminary pink slips and ultimately laid off 296 people.

Twin Rivers staffers defended the new recommendation Tuesday, saying positions are again targeted for layoffs because of a drop in enrollment, even as the state education budget grows next year.

The proposal would not result in curriculum cuts, said Patty Smart, associate superintendent of human resources. She also said the proposed number of pink slips would not represent the actual number of layoffs because of attrition and other factors.

The district recently spent $14,000 on a Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team report that served as an organizational and staffing review of the school district, the document to which Fowler referred.

District staff members said they also met with principals and other school staff to determine where cuts should be made.

Joyce Childs of labor union Twin Rivers United Educators asked the seven-member board, which includes four trustees voted in last June, to reject the warning notices.

"We got you elected so you would stop doing this," she said. "You need to stop doing this."

Some board members initially supported issuing the notices Tuesday.

"I'd like to keep every position, but financially it's not feasible," said John Dexter, one of the newly elected trustees. He challenged the board to send out the preliminary pink slips and then "make all trims needed in order to get every position filled."

But the proposal died when nobody acted on board President Cortez Quinn's motion to issue layoff notices.

Ingersoll warned trustees that the district would face a deficit next year if it didn't send out the layoff notices. The district had already cut $5 million in supplies and services at the beginning of this school year, she said, and is continuing to make adjustments to keep its budget in balance now and in two future years.

Ingersoll told The Bee in an email Thursday that many positions targeted for pink slips were funded by one-time funds scheduled to run out June 30. She said that savings from those positions have already been included in future budget projections.

Gordon said he is hopeful the board will reconsider layoff notices before the state's Friday deadline.

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

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