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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 5:56 pm | Fair with Haze 60º


Santa Barbara School District Finds a Way to Fill Funding Gap

The use of excess property taxes is one way the district will offset a one-time $3.4 million revenue loss from California

Amid statewide panic over the fiscal crisis, the Santa Barbara School Districts somehow managed to pull a seven-figure rabbit out of the hat and offset the current deficit without further layoffs or program cuts.

Funds from excess property taxes, a settlement with Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and other maneuvers have allowed the district to offset the one-time revenue reduction of $3.4 million from the state level.

Although the elementary school district is classified as basic aid, it will not officially begin being funded that way until February, Deputy Superintendent Eric Smith said Tuesday night.

For now, as a revenue-limit district, the excess property taxes can be used to pay the state when it comes calling for the money, he said.

Among other reports presented at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting were changes to staffing, last year’s test scores and plans for the special-education department.

The school’s staffing for this year includes many teacher assignments in areas not listed on their credentials. Some of the assignments made board members uneasy, such as a single-subject physical-education teacher teaching four periods of American Government. According to the Education Codes, people with teaching credentials may teach any class in which he or she has 18 units or nine upper-division units in the subject being taught.

Some of the teachers are new to the district, and it’s not uncommon for teachers to rotate subjects to help out, personnel director Kristine Robertson said.

The Academic Performance Index improved in the past year, and the district’s STAR testing scores improved in every category, including jumps up in every subgroup — including social-economic disadvantaged, Latino and disabled students.

Other students in the district spotlight have been those in the special-education department. A stakeholder group meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Monday to discuss the FCMAT recommendations and to break up into smaller subgroups to tackle the issues.

The group’s full roster — which includes teachers, administrators, representatives from organizations and others — and the agenda will be listed on the district’s Web site this week. The department also has plans for community meetings.

For the past year, many parents have attended board meetings to offer input and request board action to investigate and improve the special-education department.

“We just want to see the process move a little bit faster,” said Catherine Abarca, who has attended meetings for nearly a year and has been frustrated with waiting for things to turn around.

The board interviewed candidates for special-ed director positions Tuesday, and the district is still seeking additional program specialists. A new special-ed executive director and interim director have been hired.

In closed session, the board settled two litigation cases in which the district will pay compensatory special-ed services and lawyer fees. The fiscal impact to the district is $55,100 and $100,000, respectively.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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