School board warned of more cuts
Prior to passing the 2012-13 budget Tuesday evening, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board was warned about the possible magnitude of the cuts it may have to make after the first of the year.
Board members, who made almost $2.6 million in cuts earlier this year that included eight furlough days, will be facing another $1.5 million in cuts for the 2013-14 fiscal year. And Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese warned that if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiative fails in November, the district will be looking at another $441-per-student in cuts – or an additional $1.76 million.
“Almost every (school) district is planning for the $441 cut,” Frese told the three board members in attendance Tuesday, as board President Gary DeSmet and Nicole Abate Ducarroz were absent from the special meeting.
“I’m confident we’ll have more clarity after the November election,” Frese said.
Boardmember Helen Marsh speculated that, even if Brown’s tax passes, the district will still have to make cuts. “But we’ll make significantly greater cuts in 2013-14 if it doesn’t pass,” she suggested.
Frese said the governor is talking about taking another 15 days off the school calendar if his measure doesn’t pass. “It’s disheartening,” he said.
Marsh said the district has already cut salaries for all employees by taking the eight furlough days. “And we’ll have cuts on top of that,” she said. “We’ve already made significant salary and program cuts.”
Boardmember Dan Gustafson said the last round of cuts was made with a scalpel. “This looks like a butcher knife,” he said. “If this measure passes, we’re still in trouble.”
Boardmember Cam Hawing could only shake his head and mutter, “More furlough days?”
Frese said, “Where else could you go? … Shorten the school year by another 15 days.” And he said the proposed 15 furlough days wouldn’t cover the $1.76 million needed in cuts.
“We need to identify our priorities through the strategic plan,” Hawing said. “We need to prepare ourselves. The process last time was exhausting.”
The budget the board got for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1, calls for spending $34.67 million on estimated revenues of $33.83 million – a deficit of almost $794,000.
Frese gave the board some deficit projections for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years, both before the additional $441-per-student cut and after the potential cut.
In 2013-14, the district’s deficit projection is $1.15 million if the governor’s tax passes and $2.9 million if it doesn’t and the $441 cuts are in place.
The projection for 2014-15 is worse, as the deficit is projected to be $1.5 million even if the tax passes and almost $3.3 million if it doesn’t.
With little debate, in a meeting room filled with empty chairs, the board passed the budget 3-0.
During its 30-minute meeting, the board also approved the salary scale for district employees. At last Tuesday’s meeting, where they were originally supposed to approve the salary schedules, DeSmet pointed out that the district is paying a starting teacher only $35,000. The scale, which starts at $35,117 for a new teacher, tops out at almost $69,000 for a teacher with 27 years and possessing a master’s degree and 30 additional credit hours.
The board also approved numerous regulations.