‘Mourning’ over $2.6M in school budget cuts
After months of meetings, tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board will cut the coming year’s budget by nearly $2.6 million.
There have been more than a dozen budget meetings since September with administrators, teachers, staff and stakeholder groups, including the Boosters Club, DELAC (the District English Learner Advisory Committee), student leadership and the community, to decide on the cuts the board will make official tonight.
“There’s mourning,” said board President Gary DeSmet. “There’s change, loss and things ending. But in the midst of loss, there’s still good.”
He called it ironic that while the district will be cutting almost $2.6 million, that’s almost the amount the district had to send back to Sacramento this year as its “fair share” of the state education cuts. In the last three years, the district has sent more than $5.2 million back to Sacramento as its “fair share.” And the district will probably have to send another $2.5 million back this coming fiscal year too.
“The state is telling us, ‘We’re taking it back – and we’re taking more,’” DeSmet said.
“Things are not getting better,” he continued. “It’s accelerating and it’s getting larger faster.”
Some of the larger cuts include five furlough days, saving $542,420 and three buy-back days for staff development for an additional $325,000. But those two cuts alone would mean about a 4.4 percent pay cut for district employees.
Other items on the cut list include cutting funding for the Sonoma Valley Adult School ($267,000), reorganizing custodial services ($506,620) and eliminating class-size reduction in the second grade ($200,000).
“It’s a loss. The Adult School will close,” said DeSmet. “We can’t minimize the pain. We’re losing 21 jobs.”
Other programs facing funding cuts include the Core Replacement intervention program at El Verano, Sassarini and Flowery elementary schools, saving $34,000; a 50 percent reduction of independent study at the high school, saving $60,000; closing Gateway School for students in grades seven through 10, saving $100,000; eliminating the coaching stipends for middle-school sports, saving $51,287 and a 25 percent reduction in funding library technicians at the elementary level, saving $33,812.
Other cuts include $110,000 in transportation for special education students by taking back routes currently provided by outside vendors; $100,000 at the district office including but not limited to additional furlough days, possible reductions in hours, salary reductions and layoffs; $155,000 in special education funding yet to be determined; $95,000 in reductions in middle school sections and $9,500 for additional four-to-five furlough days for Superintendent Louann Carlomagno, Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese and Sonoma Valley High Principal Dino Battaglini.
The proposed cuts come to $2,589,639.
“But blaming Sacramento doesn’t get us anywhere,” DeSmet insisted. “It’s wasted energy. We have to work through this together.”
“We can get through this, but it’s becoming a community problem,” he continued. “This is painful.”
The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W.