School board meeting addresses cuts

Tuesday night’s school board meeting brought more uncertain news for the education budget as trustees and administrators grappled with the road ahead – most certainly not paved with gold.

As trustees prepare to vote at a special meeting next Tuesday, January 24 on $2.589 million in cuts for the 2012-2013 school year the district is also adjusting to new news from Sacramento.  Midyear cuts have triggered another estimated reduction of $375,000 to this year’s budget.

Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese called it, “Not good news,” referring to the cuts and pending cuts, especially given that the current budget work is yet to completed.

One possible bright spot, the hope of receiving money from redevelopment funds pulled from the City of Sonoma and the Springs, didn’t excite staff or board members.  “The redevelopment funds are up in the air,” said Louann Carlomagno, Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent.  “It’s all very nebulous.”  And, as board member Helen Marsh pointed out, additional funding received from redevelopment could trigger further cuts in education funding, negating any net gain.

Regarding the current wave of budget reductions for the 2012-2013 school year, the biggest cuts come from five furlough days for students and three buy back days for all school staff, together saving an estimated $867,420.  After that, custodial services stand to take a big hit.  The cut – approximately 50 percent of the annual custodial budget – will save an estimated $506,602 but comes at the cost of layoffs and a significant change in the way district’s schools are maintained.  School cleaning will shift to night rather than daytime hours and in lieu of on-site custodial staff, each school will be assigned a maintenance person who will also tackle janitorial emergencies.  Frese admitted that, while the bathrooms will be cleaned every evening, the cuts will result in “a reduction in the amount of cleaning we do.”

A special board meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 24 at 6:30 in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First Street West, Sonoma.

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