Schools budget remains intact
For the time being, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District's budget won't suffer any further impacts from the state's budget fiasco.
But if state tax collections fall too short, it could have a serious impact on the district's budget - by perhaps as much as an additional $1.5 million.
Because of the state's budget woes, the district is already on the hook to send $2.6 million back to Sacramento this fiscal year as part of what the state is calling its "fair share."
Some critics of Sacramento aren't using terms as charitable as "fair share" to describe the state's taking.
The state is demanding an 8.9 percent "fair share" kickback from "basic aid" districts such as Sonoma, which are those districts receiving all of their money in property taxes and other taxes, as opposed to a "revenue-limit" district that receives state aid to make up the difference between property taxes and state funding levels. Only about 10 percent of the state's school districts are basic aid districts.
At last Tuesday night's school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese told the board that, due to better than expected economic indicators, no additional reductions were made.
"Overall, this is good news," Frese said. "But there is still a chance that things could change. This is because the state's budget includes automatic 'trigger cuts' if tax revenues do not come in as expected."
In a memo to the board, Frese pointed out that by Dec. 15, the state's director of finance is supposed to determine whether revenues are coming in as forecast or are falling short. If revenues fall short of goals, automatic spending cuts are triggered.
Frese said if revenues fall $1 billion below the forecast, there will be no change. If revenues fall between $1 billion and $2 billion, child care, higher education and other state programs will be cut.
But if revenues are more than $2 billion below the forecast, there will be a 4 percent cut to general K-12 funding, including an authorization for cuts for an additional seven school days on top of the five already authorized, making a total of 12 days cut from the school calendar.
"The cuts to K-12 districts are estimated to be $350 a student, meaning it would cost us about $1.5 million," Frese told the board.
Board member Helen Marsh asked Frese if he was worried - and Frese admitted that he was.
"No new taxes is taxing public employees," Marsh said. "I'm thankful our teachers haven't been impacted the way teachers in neighboring districts have. In some instances they've had a 10 percent reduction in salaries."
In other action, the board approved a number of projects around the district totaling just short of $3 million. One project the board didn't approve, but will look further into next month, is replacing the administration building and attached classroom at the Sonoma Charter School. Marsh said she didn't have enough information about the building to vote on it and asked that it be tabled for a month.
Among some of the larger ticket items were classroom technology upgrades for $500,000; classroom furniture for $250,000, window blind replacements at $300,000; courtyard renovation at Altimira Middle School for $250,000; and a reconfigured student drop-off at Flowery for $300,000. Also approved were $300,000 in seismic improvements at Altimira, Flowery and Prestwood.