Sonoma Valley schools to lose $313K in career education funds

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District is going to lose about $313,000 in funding over the next eight years that the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) is now picking up for Career Technical Education.

But instead of cutting the programs that rely on the funding, the district will pick up the cost.

At the Jan. 14 school board meeting, Superintendent Louann Carlomagno told the board that because of the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) the state is rolling out, the district will lose $313,292 in funding, although it will only lose $78,323 next fiscal year. The remaining cuts would be phased in over the following seven years.

“The LCFF shifts accountability to the school districts,” Carlomagno told the board.

The funding is for 17 programs, such as parts of the agriculture program, the culinary program and parts of the video program at Sonoma Valley High School.

“By 2020, we’re on our own,” Carlomagno said.

But, she added, non basic-aid districts will receive funding from the state that is intended to offset the reductions. Sonoma Valley is a basic-aid district, meaning its tax revenues are higher than the money the state allots to revenue limit districts, which make up about 90 percent of the state’s school districts.

While the district is basic aid, last month John Bartolome, the district’s business manager, reported that because of a change in state funding over the next couple of years, the district could be back to a revenue limit district as early as the 2015-16 fiscal year.

“Right now, the Career Technical Education funding is funded through the county as ROP (Regional Occupational Programs). Under LCFF, other districts will receive funding from the state for career tech, but we won’t,” Carlomagno added. “I strongly suggest that we want to continue funding these programs.”

Carlomagno said that by 2020, the district will be responsible for its career courses.

The unknowns in the new model include the rate at which the state will transfer funds from the county office to school districts.

“SCOE will have less funding for CTE/ROP each year, as more funding obligations are added,” she said. “While SCOE supports a smooth transition, the level of funding that SCOE has available is unknown.”

Carlomagno said that right now, SCOE will continue to employ CTE teachers, but districts may contract for these teachers’ services.

“Our county is being supportive,” she said. “But this is a crucial and important service.”

The board agreed with Carlomagno, who also said, “If we were in a budget-reduction mode, we’d be in trouble.”

Board President Helen Marsh remarked that the district will be doing its own backfill with the programs.

In other business, the board signed a license agreement with the Sonoma County Water Agency for access and installation of wells at Sonoma Valley High School.

The testing includes a pair of 50-foot and 100-foot wells, two 50-foot-deep soil borings and a stream gauge in Nathanson Creek. The installations will help evaluate the site’s potential to recharge groundwater and support a multi-benefit flood-reduction/groundwater recharge project with the district and the Sonoma Ecology Center.

It’s part of the same project that the water district has undertaken at the Montini Open Space Preserve.

The board also:

• Accepted the audit report for the fiscal year ending in June 2013.

• Received the first interim financial reports from both the Sonoma Charter School and Woodland Star Charter School.

• And honored Charlotte Skorlich and Elsa Winter as Prestwood Elementary School’s students of the year.