School board seeks info on cuts
A special school board meeting was set for sometime during the week of Nov. 14 after Sonoma Valley Unified School District board members decided they wanted more explanations, and to learn possible consequences about the potential budget cuts they’ll be making in January.
The board has to chop almost $2.6 million from the budget for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1, 2012.
During a preliminary discussion on the potential cuts at Tuesday night’s board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese told the board that the 39-item list of potential cuts included “the list of usual suspects” that the board looked at two years ago.
“This is not a prioritized list,” he said. “It represents all reductions that we may look at.” For many of the items, there are tiers of cuts so that the board can see what impact various amounts would have.
But Boardmember Helen Marsh said she wanted more information, such as how some of the proposed cuts would affect safety – or the district’s objectives. “If we eliminate transportation,” she said, “it might have less of an impact on higher socio-economic levels than on lower socio-economic levels.”
Marsh said she went over the list of potential cuts on Sunday and found it fairly easy to come up with about $1 million. “But coming up with $2.6 million is a lot more difficult,” she said. “Making $2.6 million in cuts after years of making cuts … it’s things we didn’t want to cut in the past.”
Boardmember Dan Gustafson agreed. “Right around $1.5 (million) to $1.6 million, things got really difficult,” he said. “None of it worked.”
Fellow Boardmember Cam Hawing also agreed with Marsh. “Our guiding principles should set our priorities,” he said. “We need to start laying out our principles so we can start getting feedback.”
Marsh said she wanted to make data-driven decisions.
But Frese told the board that there’s not a lot of good data to answer questions such as class-size reduction. “Some have consequences beyond the initial cut,” he added.
Frese said the last time the board cut $100,000 from transportation it took seven months to redraw the bus maps.
Boardmember Gary DeSmet said he would like to get impressions from administrators sooner rather than later. “I want to hear from you,” he said. “I know you’re having discussions already.”
Superintendent Louann Carlomagno confirmed that. “We’ve talked about principles in staff and cabinet meetings,” she said “We’ve spent a lot, a lot, a lot of time in this.”
Marsh said she wants to hear from the staff and the community. “The community isn’t going to have any easier a job coming up with $2.6 million than I did,” she said. “The last time, there were some popular cuts we chose not to make.”
Board President Nicole Ducarroz said the potential cuts won’t be an easy decision. “None of us wants to eliminate programs … but we’re eliminating funding for the programs.”
The board decided it wanted more information and the consequences of any cuts, and will set a special meeting for sometime the week of Nov. 14 for that purpose.
The board will receive the recommended cuts at its December meeting and make the cuts at a special meeting in January.