EMPIRE -- The economic outlook for Empire schools looks bleak, not only for the upcoming budget year, but for the following one, as well.
Empire Union School District trustees Thursday night approved the possible layoffs of 14 teachers and two assistant principals and accepted a financial report that puts the district in the red for its next two budget years.
District officials must cautiously plan on slashing $2.7 million, about 12 percent of the district's $23 million budget, basing the eliminations on worst-case projections from Gov. Schwarz-enegger's gloomy January budget proposal that would cut billions in state education funding.
Most districts across the state and county are facing the same cuts, some more than others. Stanislaus County school districts are looking at $84 million in reductions for the upcoming 2008-09 budget year, which starts July 1. Districts have until March 15 to warn some employees about anticipated layoffs and must approve the budget for the next fiscal year by June 30 even if the state budget has not been passed.
Empire will lose $767,000 next year because of a shrinking student population. The district's enrollment has dropped more than 15 percent in five years. This year, the district enrolls less than 3,500 Empire and east Modesto students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
If Schwarzenegger's recommendation comes to fruition, Empire will lose five kindergarten-through-sixth-grade teachers, a middle school elective teacher, two special education positions, one physical education teacher, and a teacher each in math, history, science and English and a music teacher. Trustees approved the plan on a 4-0 vote with little fanfare Thursday night. Trustee Stacie Morales left before the vote.
Officials plan on cutting $120,000 in costs at the district office.
Because the declining enrollment doesn't look as if it will let up soon, district officials might look at closing a campus as early as fall 2009.
Another indication of Empire's grim financial future is that Thursday night's meeting included a budget report that predicts the district will not be able to pay all its bills in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
The district can meet its financial obligations this year, but will spend more than it brings in the next two years unless more cuts are made or revenues increase.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2339.