Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 12:58 pm | Overcast 66º


School Board Votes for Shorter Year, Staff Furloughs to Close Budget Gap

But labor negotiations, district unification and a tax extension ballot measure could all have an effect on the $10 million shortfall

The Santa Barbara School District’s budget for 2011-12 is built on ifs.

While the school board approved $10.4 million in potential cuts Tuesday, the district could see $6 million in savings — if unification is approved — and perhaps $4 million more if a tax extension measure is placed on the ballot and approved by voters in the June election.

For now, though, the potential cuts give staff direction to negotiate with labor groups and research the implementation.

Many layoff notices have already been sent out, though Superintendent Brian Sarvis said the district hopes to rescind them.

“There’s no way we can cut $10 million without feeling the difference,” board president Annette Cordero said.

The five board members voted unanimously to:

» Pursue 10 days of furloughs for administrative, classified, certified and confidential staff members

» Shorten the school year by 10 days for teachers and five days for students (with the instructional time made up by adding a few minutes each day)

» Increase the Multimedia Arts and Design Academy class sizes to 35 as other academies are staffed

» Budget in the state proposal to reimburse districts for some costs

» Move supplemental hours from tutoring and summer school to the general fund

» Transfer certain program funds to the general fund

» Change San Marcos High School’s staffing to 35-to-1 ratios instead of 33-to-1 to make it comparable with other high schools.

Sarvis the furloughs and staffing changes require negotiating with labor groups, which is scheduled for later this month.

An outpouring of support for nurses, librarians, teachers and other staff members made school board members stay away from any of the proposed service cuts, and most of them had an aversion to increasing class sizes in any core classes.

Staff members said they have been cut down in past years and aren’t sure how long they can keep going with less and less, as one teacher put it.

Board members felt it was less disruptive to propose across-the-board furloughs instead of targeted layoffs.

Sarvis and board members urged constituents to write to state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, who opposes a tax extension ballot measure.

The district also hasn’t been shy about its support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s idea to eliminate Redevelopment Agencies. Sarvis calculated that the district has lost more than $6 million in property tax revenues because of Santa Barbara’s RDA and referenced the Calle Cesar Chavez property the district wanted from the RDA for a new maintenance facility.

“We did ask for some help from the RDA, and we did not get it,” he said.

The cuts voted on Tuesday are tentative, and the board will revisit the issue in May to see whether negotiations, unification or the tax extension issue have made any progress — for better or worse.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, the school board extended the contract of youth outreach worker Ismael Huerta, a gang-prevention specialist who meets with dozens of secondary students as a mentor and counselor. The issue of gang violence in schools has been an increasing concern and led to the outreach worker position.

Students came to the board meetings last week and this week to ask for another year of Huerta’s service. They said he helps students make good decisions and believe a better future — even college — is achievable.

“Ismael has taken time to give the push teens need to open up and let their dreams run wild,” San Marcos graduate Blanca Palacios said.

His contract ended after grant funding dried out in 2010, but the board approved extra funds — which were matched by the Bower Foundation — to keep him through this month. The board approved $95,047 to fund his salary, benefits and support funding for college field trips for the next year.

His position was “born out of crisis,” board member Kate Parker said. “It’s so important, or we will be right back where we were four years ago.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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