KNIGHTSEN -- The Knightsen School District had planned a 4 percent to 5 percent raise for its teachers this fiscal year until news of the state budget crisis hit.

"We hadn't even started negotiating. We wanted to give them a nice healthy raise," said Knightsen Superintendent Vickey Rinehart.

Like other area school districts, Knightsen is struggling with the news of future budget cuts. Anticipated cuts of 5 percent from this year's budget would mean $150,000 less than anticipated this year and $300,000 less next year, according to Rinehart.

Some school districts, such as Oakley, had already negotiated raises for teachers and had to rescind them because of the recent news from the state. Rinehart said the lack of a raise and the state of the economy generally is hurting morale among the faculty.

Knightsen teachers are generally paid less than other East County and area teachers, and the district was planning to resolve some of that with a sizable raise this year.

"The board members were very upset. They were looking forward to giving a nice raise," Rinehart said. "This is hitting the schools really hard."

Board member Liesel Williams said one of the board's top priorities is ensuring that teachers are making enough money. The goal was to get Knightsen teachers' salaries closer to what other area teachers make.

"It is terrible because we are such a small district and our teachers are there because they want to be. It is hard when we can't pay them what they deserve," Williams said.

Teachers' union representatives couldn't be reached for comment.

The state cuts could also affect the district's new campus, Old River Elementary, which is slated to open this summer. The district has the money to finish building the school, but Rinehart said the district may have to be creative with staffing there and at the existing Knightsen School.

Rinehart and the district staff are examining staffing, enrollment and potentially future layoffs. Those decisions must be made by March 15.

"We are going to have to look at charging for things we have never charged for," Rinehart said. "We have to take a look at everything and how can we minimize the costs."

Paula King covers education in far East County. Reach her at 925-779-7189 or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.