After-school Program a Success; District Warned Against Deficit Spending

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Tuesday's Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting was highlighted by an encouraging presentation on the After School Education and Safety Program (ASES), a joint project by TUSD, the City of Turlock and the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

The program is free and student admittance is based on academic need. ASES provides students who need help academically a structured after-school curriculum that matches what school sites are teaching. In addition, it offers organized play and activities, character education and further homework assistance.

“We really work closely with teaching staff at every school to enhance what the students are learning in the classroom,” said City of Turlock Recreation Supervisor Karen Packwood.

Currently, ASES is offered at five TUSD elementary schools – Brown, Crowell, Cunningham, Osborn and Wakefield – as well as Turlock Junior High. All locations are completely booked at 90 students for each site. At Osborn, a further 106 students are on the waiting list. The City of Turlock maintains a 20 to 1 student to staff ratio with a site manager at each location. Funding for ASES comes from SCOE grants.

Trustee Tami Munoz praised the ASES program for benefiting her own children at Cunningham.

“We had nothing but positive experiences with ASES. The recreation staff there have a lot of communication with parents,” she said.

To supplement the program the city and TUSD offer a fee-based program known as Positive Leisure Activities for Youth (PLAY), which provides similar educational and recreational opportunities.

On Tuesday, the district also announced a $2.7 million state funding boost to help transition into the Common Core Standards. The “one-time” money will pay for professional development and standards-aligned instructional materials for teachers and staff, and technology improvements. The exact amount to spend in each area has yet to be determined but is likely to be solidified in the coming months.

Turlock Teacher’s Association President Julie Shipman raised some questions as to how the district will balance spending between professional development and technological needs. She noted that there is much for teachers to learn with Common Core and it will require time – as in days of training – for teachers to grasp all of the changes. She also noted the district has already set aside $5 million for technological needs. The district has two years to spend the money but will likely spend it much more quickly.

In other news, the district’s budget was officially approved with a letter of review and acceptance by SCOE, which the district is required by state education code to receive. The district is running an 8.98 percent reserve budget for 2013-14, 8.06 percent for 2014-15 and 7.73 percent for 2015-16. The minimum reserve level for a district of TUSD’s size is three percent.

SCOE did offer a word of caution to the district in regards to its continued deficit spending. TUSD is projecting a nearly $3.9 million deficit in its general fund, representing 3.49 percent of the budgeted total expenditures and transfers out for 2013-14. In addition, the district multi-year projections reflect deficit spending of nearly $2.3 million for 2014-15 and $1.35 million for 2015-16.

“We remind you that continued deficit spending will ultimately diminish fund balance and cash reserves,” the letter states. “Should the district continue to deplete its cash reserves during these difficult economic times, a cash flow shortfall will occur, especially when the receipt of revenue doesn’t match-up with operating expenditures. The end result for a district can be insolvency.”

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