Monday, May 21 , 2018, 12:06 am | Fair 58º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara School Board Makes Unification Official, Approves New Name for District

Meanwhile, the district sells $40 million in bonds from Measures Q and R to provide funding for capital improvement projects

The Santa Barbara school board made unification official Tuesday night and voted to change to the name Santa Barbara Unified School District effective July 1.

“This is historic,” said Annette Cordero, who will continue her post and be the first board president of the unified district.

Little else will change as the elementary and secondary districts combine, since they already operate as a joint resolution district and have a shared, centralized administration.

To receive such speedy approval, the districts received waivers on Friday from the State Board of Education allowing them to have an earlier effective date, skip a general election and keep the existing board members.

Last week was a benchmark for capital improvement projects, too, as the district sold $40 million in general obligation bonds for Measures Q and R. Voters passed $110 million in bonds in November and more are expected to be sold in a few years after existing debt is paid off, administrators have said.

David Hetyonk, director of facilities and operations, presented the priority list of projects based on school and staff input. Some Measure I and V funds will be used, too.

Citizen oversight committees for each bond measure will help ensure the money is spent appropriately, not make recommendations on which projects to fund, Hetyonk said.

Click here to view the list of projects in the elementary schools. Click here to view the list of projects in the secondary schools.

After a budget presentation Tuesday outlining the impact of unification, the school board asked for more pessimistic budget estimates, since all projections assume the tax extensions pass.

“We can’t afford to hope,” board member Ed Heron said.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget promised flat funding — which would actually be a reduction of $19 per student from the current year — but there are new cuts to child care and mental health services for special-education students that would shift from county agencies to school districts.

It’s unclear how much, if any, money would follow the mandate, Deputy Superintendent Eric Smith said.

“We’ve carried large reserves in the past; frankly, that’s the reason we’ve been able to maintain the lion’s share of programs,” he said.

With unification providing $6 million a year even with the districts’ deficit, they could do well without using more reserves if the proposed budget comes to fruition, he added. If not, there are “doomsday scenarios” that start at a $9.9 million deficit, which would result in mid-year cuts and could cause some districts to be taken over by the state.

The numbers could change, but the districts must make decisions that can’t be changed, Cordero said.

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. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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