By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa City Schools officials on Wednesday night will consider cutting school days from next year’s calendar, increasing class sizes and reducing administrative and support jobs at the district office and school sites among other reductions.
Sonoma County’s largest school district expects to cut an additional $1.6 million from the upcoming school year after making $1.4 million in cuts earlier this month.
But that total could soar to $8 million if a slate of tax extensions proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown either fails to make the June ballot or is struck down by voters.
The $8 million is 6 percent of the district’s current year budget of $130.5 million.
One of the biggest dollar savings could come if the district abandons class-size restrictions. But for trustee Tad Wakefield, that option makes little sense.
“It seems to me an easy way out,” he said. “The impact is on the kids. That’s a lot of kids that are getting impacted.”
Increasing kindergarten through third-grade classes from 22 to 30 students would save $925,000 after a state penalty meant to encourage lower teacher-student ratios. It would eliminate 36 full-time teaching jobs.
Increasing class sizes in grades nine through 11 from 29 to 30 students would cut 13 full-time jobs and save the district $780,000 a year. Boosting seventh- and eighth-grade classes from 28 to 30 would save $420,000 a year by cutting seven full-time teaching jobs.
Maintaining a cut that lopped three classroom days from the current school year would save $1.4 million next year. Eliminating classroom or teacher work days is subject to union negotiation.
“If we take furlough days, which is, of course, an attractive option because it’s a big chunk of money, teachers salaries go down, children lose time in the classroom, which is not good because we are still held to these high standards,” said board member Laura Gonzalez.
Still, furloughs — and possibly upping the three-day cut to four or five — could save jobs, Gonzalez said.
“My thing is probably another furlough day or two would be preferable to letting other people go and that is a hard decision,” she said.
Gonzalez called the cuts unpalatable but inevitable.
“I think we are being set up to fail,” she said.
Other potential hits include cutting district office supervisor jobs, district office clerical and maintenance, school administration and school site clerical by 5 percent each.
Closing schools in the 2012-2013 school year would save $300,000 to $400,000 for an elementary campus, $800,000 to $900,000 for middle school and $1.8 million to $2 million for a high school.
Earlier this month, the board voted to cut $1.4 million from next year’s budget, including $675,560 that paid for a support counseling program for struggling high school students, and $442,000 that will result in class sizes in ninth-grade English and math courses rising from 24 to 26.5 students.
The school board meets at 6 p.m. in the Santa Rosa City Council chambers, 100 Santa Rosa Ave.
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.