Schools get $2.37M ‘present’
The Sonoma Valley Unified School District got a late Christmas present from the state.
A $2.37 million Christmas present, to be more precise.
The money is coming from funds that would have gone to the now dissolved redevelopment agencies – two of which included the school district.
The district received $1,307,960 from the City of Sonoma and $1,059,082 from the Springs redevelopment area.
The first thing the district is going to do is buy back the five remaining furlough days – at about $120,000 a day – the board instituted last January when it cut $2.6 million from this year’s budget.
“The furlough days is our top priority,” said Justin Frese, the district’s deputy superintendent. “We’ll have to take it to the two bargaining units (the teachers and the classified employees) because it would modify the number of work days. But I don’t anticipate any resistance.”
Restoring the furlough days to instruction days would result in five more days of pay for district employees.
About half the money, $1.22 million, is one-time money, while the $1.14 million will probably become on-going funding, although the amount will probably change from year to year.
The board originally instituted eight furlough days that worked out to a 4.4 percent salary reduction for all of the district’s employees. The district has already used three of the days.
Bob Gossett, the president of the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association was happy about the news.
“The return of as many of the furlough days as possible was the VMTA’s goal from the outset of our agreeing to take them last spring. Teachers were and are still very concerned about the negative impact of the furlough days on student instruction as well as the loss of three essential staff development and training workdays,” he said. “When the district recently projected two more years of the eight furlough days, teachers around the district were preparing to protest their continuation.”
“But now, with the passing of Proposition 30, as well as the funding from the RDA, our schools and school support services can return to a more normal level,” he continued. “As an Association, we are excited to get back to the bargaining table in late January to discuss not only the return of the remaining furlough days but to also look towards some other critical issues, such as salary, which has remained stagnant for the past few years.”
School board president Dan Gustafson was equally jubilant about the windfall.
“I’m delighted,” he said. “The furlough days were a major move we didn’t want to make.”
He said the board has been aware of the possibility that redevelopment money could arrive, but that it was a surprise nonetheless.
“But a welcome surprise,” he added. “This reverses a trend.”
Gustafson called the additional money “a relief.”
“It was a big gift way back under the tree,” he said.
Deputy superintendent Frese said after rescinding the furlough days, the district will have to prioritize how it wants to address other needs.
This means the district won’t have to make the $430,000 in cuts it was anticipating for next year.
“We’re pleased we’re not going to have to make any cuts in the coming months,” Frese said. “We’re going to have to look and see what we bring back.”