NUSD Cuts Here, Cuts There, Cuts Everywhere

Natomas Unified School District officials tonight slashed another $5 million in jobs, programs and services during a marathon meeting which drew dozens of protesters and a standing-room-only crowd.

The meeting came just days after the Sacramento County Office of Education put the Natomas school district on notice for failing to balance its budget as required by state education code. County officials on Monday downgraded the Natomas Unified School District’s budget from “qualified” to “negative” status — meaning it is spending more money than it is taking in, despite a series of budget cuts earlier this year. The county’s decision set in motion a strict oversight of all district finances.

The Sacramento County Office of Education issued its decision in a letter dated Sept. 21 to NUSD superintendent Steve Farrar.

“This should not be a surprise to anybody in Natomas,” said David Gordon, SCOE superintendent of schools. “It’s not like we have been lurking, waiting to pounce on them. We have been warning them over the past six months.”

The county has assigned NUSD a fiscal adviser to facilitate the $7 million in cuts needed to get out of negative status. County officials now have the authority to prevent the district from adding new expenses without making reductions, but will not mandate which cuts to make.

“We say ‘this is how much you have to cut’ and the district decides how to make those cuts,” Gordon said. “Everything is on the table, depending on how the district wants to view their own priorities.”

And after more than two hours of public testimony, the Natomas Unified School District board of trustees and its staff considered everything, save teachers’ jobs which are subject to ongoing negotiations. Some decisions made at tonight’s meeting are effective immediately and will impact the 2009-10 school year which started August 20 including:

  • Cutting the school year by five days
  • Eliminating the high school senior project graduation requirement
  • Getting rid of stipends for teachers who coach spring sports and advise production of the yearbook.

Other cuts to be implemented beginning the 2010-11 school year include eliminating vice principal jobs at middle schools, nearly all school counselor positions, and 11 classified employee support positions such as school secretaries. Another $350,000 came in the form of salary reductions from school district office and support staff.

Cut: Funding for ROP classes such as auto shop by $50,000. Cut: another $50,000 from high school athletics which is already operating as pay-for-play. due to previous reductions. Cut: All school busing except for special education students, all workbooks, and stipends for fall sports and cheer will also be gone starting next year.

The district plans to postpone buying text books for the math curriculum it recently switched to, eliminate all school workbooks, cancel use of Tungsten once its contract expires, reduce the number of lunch periods at Natomas High School, and reschedule senior classes to reduce costs. Class size in primary grades was bumped up to 30 students per teacher.

“Five million gets us to a place where the county is much happier with us and still works with us,” said B. Teri Burns, NUSD school board president. “This is our first good-faith effort.”

Many of the decisions were unanimous and the message to Natomas Unified School District employees came across loud and clear: It is not hiring, it is not spending, and everything else — including contract negotiations — is being scrutinized by the county.


  1. Scott Dosick says

    The cuts made by the Trustees tonight were simply devestating. Unfortunately, their actions were driven by basic math. We have to cut 11% from the budget to get back in the black. Only 9% of the budget comes from non-salary/benefit items (i.e., SROs, paper, text books, stipends for coaches/advisors, etc). While a parcel tax may offer some relief in the future, the only way we can mitigate these cuts in the near term is through concessions from our teachers (73% of salaries which are 91% of the entire budget). It’s simple math – you can’t cut 11% from 9%. Down the road, a $100 parcel tax could raise $2 million a year for our schools — I’ll pay that (and more) in a heartbeat to keep class sizes down and teachers in the classroom. Until then, the numbers are what the numbers are. We cannot balance this budget without help from our teachers. Please, we need you more than ever. It’s not politics – just math.

  2. Buzz- thank you so much for sitting in this meeting and getting the scoop for those of us who couldn’t attend. We were watching the Buzz on Facebook all night for updates.

    It’s going to get rough in Natomas. We all have to band together and make this work for the kids. Even if you don’t have children, you’re going to have to participate in some way. We owe it to the children, the neighborhood and ourselves to fix this problem both in the short run and the next election.

  3. Doesn’t there need to be a certain amount of hours that kids need to be in the classroom every school year? How do they cut the school year by 5 days?

  4. Is there any chance they will re-draw school boundaries? I live over by Two Rivers Elem. and kids get bussed there. If there are families that can’t drive their children to school, does that mean that kids will have to walk across the freeway on-ramp off of 80 or 5?

  5. The state has allowed for districts to cut the school year without penalty.

  6. Annon- The board was clear. No bussing other than for federally mandated special education services. Crossing highways and major street, living 4 miles away, and attending a school improvement school are no longer reasons to get bussing. There will also be no bussing available for field trips and athletics (well, only there will be only if there is a special ed bus driver available and willing…. which means that there won’t be).

  7. Is there any talk of getting a school bond passed in our school district? We need to do something to stop the bleeding. School carnivals, bake sales etc can only raise chump change when faced with 5 million more in cuts. Come on people, in order to have good schools, we have to put our money where our mouths are. If our legislators don’t have the guts to do it, we can. We all benefit from good schools; Business people, parents, communities. Lets make this a great place to live and raise our kids.

  8. Scott Dosick says

    Dear Anonymous 9:59am,
    You are absolutely correct. I sit on the NUSD Budget Advisory Committee. At my request, they provided me with data regarding estimates for revenue generation from a parcel tax. Based on estimates from 2006… a $100 parcel tax would raise roughly $2 million per year. They tried to pass a parcel tax a few years ago. It got over 50% support; but, it needs 60% (or 2/3 – can’t remember) to pass. I agree – we need to start addressing the revenue side of the equation. I’m willing to put in whatever it takes to see this happen. We cannot continue to cut cut cut without permanently harming an entire generation of school aged children. I just hope that in the short term, we can get the teachers to also step up to the plate to make some concessions that will allow the district to keep teachers employed and in the classroom while restoring class sizes back to their 2008 levels.

  9. I don’t think you can do a bond for salaries, the near entire bulk of the budget. I believe bonds can only be used for facilities etc.

  10. It really stinks that our school district has made so many bad decisions and now we are in the worst fiscal position of any district in the region. The leaders at NUSD are embarrasing.

    But if there is a bright spot it is the fact that we have people in this community who do care. Parents and families willing to get involved and try to help.

    Thank you BUZZ for being willing to report all of this and for keeping us up to date.

    We are lucky to have you.

  11. While I abhor the decisions made regarding the purchase involved in the controversial land deal, I think it’s naive to believe that this is solely attributed to bad decision-making. This district is suffering just as many districts are suffering throughout the state. There was a certain expectation of state dollars and we don’t have those dollars to give to districts. How bad those cuts were going to be wasn’t clear until recently.

    It IS a travesty that our children have to suffer, but we were only promised a “free education” – not bussing, not arts, not summer school.

    Perhaps as parents if we coordinated, volunteered and participated in homeschool summer school groups, at the school, carpools, etc., some of these issues could be minimized. But, my guess is that we are all so busy worrying about our own lives, we won’t take the time.

    We’re always great to jump in and complain but just how many of us do more than that? Too busy? Me too. But, I make the time.

    NUSD is not unique, we’re not special, our children don’t deserve any more or less than anyone else and unless WE OWN the problems and participate, we have no right to gripe.

  12. As a school secretary who loves my job, it is heartbreaking to know that next year I may not have it! We already have to take 12 furlough days, and our medical benefits are going up, and we are responsible for the whole cost of the increase. The district of course because of budget constraints, cannot contribute to the increasing cost. Now they are wanting to add an additional 5 days off! It is already hard enough to loose over 300.00 per month, another 100-150.00 is terrible.

  13. With all the problems and cuts, here are some thoughts on ways the district can save money and, at the same time, show that public that they CARE about the schools, and that they are willing to “feel the pain” equally all over:

    Cost Cutting Proposal: Impose on the District Office EVERY cut that you have imposed on the school sites. Fiscal impact: Unknown

    Cuts, reductions, and changes to the status quo:
    1. Collapse and close approximately 20% of the offices in the district office. Move the staff from those offices into other, existing offices. Double and triple up in each office. If the office was not physically built to house that many individuals, make it work somehow. Strongly encourage the district to lease out the extra space to raise revenues. (class size)

    2. Turn off all copiers except for one central copier that will be shared by all district office personnel. Assign each employee a copy code. Impose a HARD CAP of 500copies PER OFFICE (not per person) per month, regardless of the number of employees working in that office. If the office exceeds the copy limit, personnel are free to go to Staples or Kinkos and make additional copies at their own cost. Paper must be provided by the employee either from their own cost or made as a donation from some other source. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule, INCLUDING BOARD MEETINGS. (supplies)

    3. Do not replace printer toner cartridges when they run out. Employees are, of course, free to replace these at their own cost (about $80 per cartridge for a standard laser printer). Paper will not be supplied. (supplies)

    4. Do not clean the offices daily. Clean the offices approximately once a month. Daily maintenance will include emptying trash cans only. Floors will not be vacuumed. (maintenance)

    5. Purchase and require use of a new computer program for all financial services. Do not purchase software licenses, supporting documents, and other necessary components. Schedule training sessions after work on the employee’s unpaid time. (textbooks)

    6. Cut all associate superintendant positions. One superintendant will do the jobs of all the others. (administration)

    7. When personnel go out on maternity leave or other long-term leaves, collapse their position and spread out their responsibilities onto other employees within the office. When the employee returns from leave, make them a “roving temp” so that the district will not have to pay for temps. (class size)

    8. Require all employees to cover for those who take sick days by assuming their responsibilities in addition to those previously assigned. Require employees to work at the reception desk and answer the district phone line 1 day per month in addition to their own responsibilities. (yard duty)

    9. Cut all travel, training, and conferences. No exceptions. (transportation)

    10. Close the district office for 5days. Those greedy employees who have not negotiated to take those days as furloughs will report to work as “work days” in the high school gym, supervised by Board President Teri Burns.

    11. With all of these cuts, require all employees to continue to do the same jobs they were doing in previous years, generating the same reports and providing the same level of services.

    When all these cuts have been taken from the district office, then ALL the employees will understand about “sharing the pain”.

  14. Is there still discussion about the possibility of a school closure for 2010-2011?? If so, what school would be the first choice to close?

  15. An elementary school will be closed next year; which school has yet to be considered, discussed, or decided.

    The board of trustees plans to hold public meetings prior to any decision being made and likely will start doing these soon.

  16. What an eye opener I have had this year. In just the first week before school I was scrambling to figure out how I would get my freshman high schooler to class on time every day when my work requires me to start at 7:00am (I thanked goodness, they would still bus my Jr. high child in at 9:30am), little did I know, right?
    I have recently been enlightened these last few months and like others am disgusted by having our children affected in such a negative way. I have four children ranging in ages of 8 to 18. I have been on the PTA I am federally cleared to volunteer in classes (and do so on a regular basis)spent two years of my childs high school years volunteering four days a week as a coach,in recent years have been brought on staff as a coach (of which I forfeited this year)I also maintain a more than 8 hour a day job. I am not tooting my horn by any means I choose to have four children and I don’t expect anyone else to step up where I can’t. I am trying to make a point regardless of no matter how much you do it will never be enough. The politics involved in the “system” are outrageous!I was laughing at the post from “Anonyms 1:11pm” but the sad fact is it was all true.
    I do not wish to stand on my soap box and wahh wahh wahh about politics. However, our leaders do not enjoy the same “privileges” as the children do. State workers (teachers, etc.) are working on furlough days trying to feed their families while heads of staff & state don’t enjoy the same treatment. Understandable somewhat for these poor state workers because these are adults, right? They are little more equipped to go out and fend for themselves and provide but you’re now taking from children’s lives. They cannot go seek a higher education, or a music program, or a recreational sports league on their own. They depend upon their parents help. However, those same parents are now working two jobs and have one less family vehicle and scaled down to apartment size living so they can house/cloth & feed these same children, where does the madness stop? We do have involved parents who are no longer able to afford their children these opportunities due to state furloughs & the economic downfall in general.
    Is it not embarrassing enough that California has the worst e-d-u-m-a-c-a-t-i-o-n scores EVER! And we wonder why? I had thought about moving but because I am a prodigy of California, I love my state! But what am I doing wrong? I vote, I volunteer, I forego my stipend (really not a big deal there), I bus other children home from practices they would otherwise not be a part of because lack of transportation & I attend PTA meetings when possible. I know I am not of the norm but there are a lot of us out there trying to help make a difference. I do see far too many parents in the Natomas area cheating the system all the time. Uhh uhh 80% of the West Lake community is eligible for free/reduced lunch, Come On! This factors into bus transportation as well. If you’re eligible for free/reduced lunch your bus pass is free. Wow, sounds like a good idea to me, the district doesn’t have the man power to check every applicant so let’s LIE and work the system. Well you worked it all right. Now look. Am I blaming all those people for all of this? No, but your certainly contributing to the issue in Natomas absolutely!
    Now that I have vented, let me offer a solution, right? No, I have no solutions but to keep doing what I am doing a hope for the best. It’s obviously not working very well. My opinion: The leaders of the district, county, & state should afford themselves the same privileges that are being forced upon the “people” and let’s not forget “CHILDREN” of the state. Budget crisis over! Sometimes the most complex and difficult problems have the easiest solutions, but we are from California and far too intelligent to have overlooked that complex solution, right?

  17. Does NUSD own the buildings that the District Office is housed in? Once they close an elementary school next year, why not move the district office into the closed elementary school? Then sell the building if NUSD owns it, or at least lease it out.

  18. Natomas Park Resident says

    Anonymous at 1:43PM,

    A facilities bond is only usable for facilities construction and other related uses. These facility bonds can be passed with a 55% vote.

    A general fund parcel tax, because of Prop 13 and the subsequent Prop 8 requires a 2/3 vote (super majority) because it is a tax increase on property owners. This is what the district attempted to pass a few years ago and fell some percentage points short.

    I am by no means advocating for or against a tax increase for general fund supplementation, especially with some of the failed staff leadership at the district, though I do agree with Mr. Dosick when he indicates that you can NOT, on an ongoing basis, just cut more and more dollars from our schools.

  19. The Board of Trustees took significant steps last night to address the district’s worsening financial situation, approving a $5 million package of new budget cuts over the next two years that includes shortening the school year by five days, further reductions to administration and eliminating most busing.

    The district is under a Sept. 30 deadline to submit a revised 2009-10 budget to the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) after receiving notice earlier this week that we are at risk of being unable to meet our current or future financial obligations.

    SCOE has appointed a fiscal advisor to work with the district on addressing a projected $7.7 million in deficit spending for this school year and up to a $27 million spending shortfall through 2012-13. Up to $4 million more in cuts are pending this fall.

    District and county officials said the latest round of reductions are caused by a $2.5 million drop in expected enrollment, less savings than expected from prior cuts and unanticipated expenditures.

    The district already made more than $8 million in budget reductions for 2009-10 as our state and nation face the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

    Another special board meeting has been set for Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m. in the Education Center.

    Forty speakers addressed the school board including parents and students who had heard an incorrect rumor that all high school fine arts programs were being cut.

    These reductions were approved for 2009-10:

    n An immediate freeze on hiring and spending, with exceptions for such critical items as bus fuel and school meals, savings to be determined.
    n The reduction of $65,000 in staff stipends for assistant sport coaches, yearbook, band, drama, journalism, senior project and drill team.
    n The potential use of 12 overstaffed teaching positions as longterm substitute teachers, savings to be determined.
    n Do not fill a vacant elementary counselor position, $100,000
    n Shorten the school year by five days, with savings to be determined because classified and management/supervisory/confidential employees have agreed to furlough days while the Natomas Teachers Association has not.

    These adjustments were approved for 2010-11:

    n Eliminate all counselors except two at each high school, $600,000
    n Increase class sizes up to 30-1 in K-3, $500,000
    n Cut four elementary prep positions, $232,000
    n Further reductions in athletic costs, $50,000
    n Reduce ROP program costs by $50,000
    n Change the schedule for high school juniors and seniors, resulting in the layoff of four teachers, $232,000
    n A 20 percent reduction in district support staff and a 10 percent reduction in school support staff, $690,000
    n Eliminate five assistant principal positions at Heron School, the middle schools and high schools, leaving two assistant principals at the high schools only, $460,000
    n More reductions in district administration: shift funding for an assistant superintendent, $60,000; eliminate two classified director/supervisor positions, $200,000; and reduce one administrative assistant, $85,000, $345,000
    n Postpone adoption of new textbooks, $915,000
    n Do not purchase consumable books, $300,000
    n End the contract for Tungsten, $73,000
    n End the contract for Pinnacle Analytics, $47,000
    n Change the number of lunch periods at Natomas High to two, $45,000
    n Eliminate all home-to-school transportation except for mandatory special education busing, $480,000
    n Carry over the new reductions for 2009-10, in the $100,000 range

    Heidi Van Zant
    Public Information Officer
    Natomas Unified School District

  20. I am growing tired of NUSD Board blaming this on the worst economy since the Great Depression. There are many school districts in the area that, yes, have been hit hard by the econonmic downturn, but have not been run into the ground like NUSD. No paper, really!?

    There have been several instances during the past years where the district has demonstrated poor leadership and fiscal management of district resources. Until the school board can show the electorate it can make smart decisions, I am not going to vote yes on any parcel tax.

  21. Can anyone tell me why California has so many school districts? Seems to me that if we eliminate some of the bureaucracies and the cost of each, more money can be used in the classroom. Can’t the City of Sacramento have their own school district that encompasses the entire city? We can eliminate many superintentants, secretaries etc. This bifurcated system is just plain inefficient and not cost effective in these tough budget times. I want that money in the classroom!

  22. Given the horific state of the balance sheet at Natomas Unified School District, the cuts were necessary.

    But I think what really has Natomas residents and district employees outraged is the fact that the balance sheet is the way that it is, such that the cuts had to be so severe.

    According to the Sacramento Bee, back in February, NUSD received a miniscule $232,501 in federal stimulus money, compared to Twin Rivers’ $5,824,556 and Elk Grove’s $17,367,229. An inquiry about this disparity to NUSD leadership indicates they “have not been able to find . . . the actual calculation of how the Federal allocations were determined. . . I am concerned that it may be based on outdated enrollment or census data from 2000. I am still searching for answers” (Source).

    So are we.

    Yet much higher enrollment fgures were used to forecast revenues for this schol year and next – and those numbers turned out to be: too high?

    So when applying for federal dollars, we apparently use enrollment numbers that are too low and when predicting state dollars, we use numbers that are too high?!

    It is also important to highlight the many millions of dollars our district wasted on the purchase of undevelopable land based on wild and unsubstantiated speculation, not to mention irresponsibility and, if I may, downright stupidity! Of course, the district has tried to wave away such criticism as irrelevant due to restrictions that would have impeded the use of those dollars for operating costs, but don’t be fooled: the truth is those restrictions could have been lifted with an election – the same type of election that some are suggesting be done to levy an additional TAX on every household in the district boundaries — a tax that families are ill-equipped to afford in this era of mandatory flood insurance premiums and unemployment well into the double digits, besides underemployment and furloughs and pay freezes and salary reductions cutting incomes of thousands workers across nearly all employment sectors in our region.

    And a bond sale? There’s no way — what investor in their right mind would buy them? Would YOU be willing to offer a line of credit to NUSD today? Besides, the cost of the interest would be unaffordable to the district. No, NUSD doesn’t need another credit card! Voters would surely reject piling a mountain of debt on an already beleagured balance sheet.

    We understand that state cutbacks in education revenue are a huge factor in the budget catastrophe facing Natomas schools – nobody is denying that. Virtually all school districts throughout California are suffering. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that our school district’s leadership — from the disgraced “retiring” superinendent to all of the trustees who wasted years defending him — is and must be held accountable for these inexcusable and damaging mistakes and missed opportunities. They got us into this mess and we must continue to press that they either get us out of it or step aside and let more competent and realistic leaders do so.

  23. OK, can somebody please explain what is meant by cutting down juniors’ and seniors’ days? Are they really going to drop a period for these grades? Or is it just bad word choice in the Bee?
    Thanks, Jen



  25. It seems that NUSD has an excuse for every problem that arises, but no real answer and no real solution. Oh, except for the solutions that hurt our kids.

  26. Anonymous 9/25/09 at 11:15 PM

    No other comments came through.

    Please send them directly to [email protected] and we will forward to the Teachers Union.

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