Schools must cut $1.8M

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The Sonoma Valley Unified School District will have to cut more than $1.8 million from next year’s budget.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, John Bartolome, the district’s chief financial officer, told the board that the district has been deficit spending and expected to make some cuts.

He outlined where the cuts could be made, the bulk of which — about $1.4 million — are achieved by eliminating temporary positions and by maximizing class size in the elementary and middle schools.

Bartolome also told the board that the district isn’t receiving as much ADA (average daily attendance) from the state. ADA is the amount of money the state pays the district for each student each day.

“The change in ADA from $237 to $214, cost the district about $50,000,” he said.

School Valley Unified School District Superintendent Louann Carlomagno said the district has been deficit spending the last two years after it made a commitment to implement Common Core curriculum and new technology.

“This is belt tightening,” she said. “We want to be strategic about tightening our belt.”

Carlomagno said the district has let class sizes get pretty low.

“This is not about staff being released and it’s not about program elimination,” she emphasized.

But new board member John Kelly wasn’t happy.

“We’re doing this 11 days before Christmas,” he said, even though the board vote was to approve the first interim report, not make cuts.

He pointed out that the $1.8 million amounted to about a 5 percent budget cut. “We should confront this,” he said.

Board President Dan Gustafson said the proposal wasn’t really cuts, but efficiencies. “We need to make a course correction,” he said.

And Bartolome said the proposal isn’t a surprise.

“We’ve been talking about this since June,” he said. “We’re sticking with our contractual agreements.”

Kelly persisted with his concerns about special-education cuts.

Nikarre Redcoff, the district’s director of Student Services, said the district is looking at teacher caseloads, not cutting services.

A mother of a special education student said that special-ed students take a lot of resources and the proposal causes her great concern. And Cheryl Coldiron, the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association president, pointed out that she doesn’t see anything about district office staff in the cuts and said that any cuts should be kept out of the classroom.

By this point, people were getting testy since the meeting was almost five hours old with the end not in sight.

Board member Nicole Ducarroz pulled a parliamentary maneuver and called the question.

“It’s 11:10. This is not a discussion about these items (the proposed cuts),” she said.

But Kelly still had questions and offered a revised motion that would approve $1.8 million in “unspecified” cuts. “We have six months to decide how we’re going to do this,” he said.

The motion passed unanimously.

In an email to staff on Wednesday, Carlomagno pointed out, “The district is purposefully spending down one-time funds we had in reserves on the support and professional development needed to implement Common Core and technology. This is ‘deficit spending’ and was planned.

“We cannot deficit spend forever, and always intended to return to General Fund spending levels that eventually align to our revenues. We will begin this process in 2017-2018,” she continued. “Our plan for this funding realignment includes identifying and optimizing our efficiency across the district while improving responsiveness and services to our students. It also includes shifting available Federal ‘Title funding’ to support specific programs currently being funded by the General Fund.”

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