Prop. 30 spares more school cuts
School districts across the state dodged a financial bullet with the passage of Proposition 30 in Tuesday’s election.
Proposition 30 hiked taxes on those people earning more than $250,000 a year, for seven years, and increased sales tax by one-quarter of a percent for four years. It is estimated that the tax would raise $6 billion annually for the state budget. But had it gone down to defeat, it would have triggered massive cuts, primarily to the state’s education system.
Sonoma Valley Unified School District officials and the teachers’ union are breathing a collective sigh of relief that the measure passed by more than 700,000 votes receiving 54 percent of the vote. In Sonoma County, the measure received 65.6 percent of the vote. Sonoma had the fifth-highest percentage vote for the measure topped only by Marin, Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties. In San Francisco, Proposition 30 received 76.8 percent.
Justin Frese, Sonoma Valley’s deputy superintendent of schools, said the passage was great news. While it doesn’t give the schools any new money, it “keeps us on the status quo,” he said. “We’re not getting any new money, but it also means we won’t have to make drastic cuts.”
The district cut more than $2.5 million earlier this year, which included eight furlough days for all district employees, closing the Sonoma Valley Adult School and increasing class sizes in second-grade classes, among other cuts.
Had Proposition 30 failed, the district would have to cut another $1.76 million. Gov. Jerry Brown had told school districts earlier that one of the ways they could cut was to pad in another 15 furlough days.
“We have some cuts ahead,” Frese said. “But nothing as dramatic as what we would have had to cut.”
He said some of the cuts ahead are cuts the district put on the back burner until it saw how tax revenues were coming in.
“We’re still operating at a budget deficit,” he added.
Bob Gossett, president of the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association called the passage, “exciting news.”
Gossett was worried about the 15 additional furlough days that could have taken effect if Proposition 30 failed. And he’s hoping that with the passage, the district might be able to eliminate some of eight furlough days built into this year’s school calendar.
“Furlough days means no pay,” he said. “This year’s eight furlough days amounts to about a 4 percent pay cut.”
School board President Gary DeSmet was equally relieved.
“Had Prop. 30 failed, we would have been in a world of hurt,” DeSmet said. “At least for this year and next, we won’t have to come up with any more money to send back to Sacramento.”
“I’m really grateful it passed,” he continued.
DeSmet said it was his impression the district may see some new money in the 2013-14 fiscal year as the state tries to backfill some of the Proposition 98 money it has withheld the past few years. Proposition 98 guaranteed schools a minimum level of funding.
“The state will be doing some backfilling, but it’s going to take some time,” he added. “The state owes the schools a ton of money.”
DeSmet said the district is at least attracting some grant money for programs.
“We’re just trying to stay in the game,” he said.