WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa school board prepares to cut deeper


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.

20 Responses to “Santa Rosa school board prepares to cut deeper”

  1. Mike’s got it right. We ARE being set up to fail! However the concept applies to way more than schools. Once this sabotaged society has failed the stage will be set for the ‘new order’ of things. The next warm ‘n fuzzy words we’ll start hearing are ‘transition’(al) and ‘recovery’. Transition to what, you ask? Google: Democrats Against UN Agenda21, Freedom Advocates, Senate Bill 1619. Feel the ‘transition’? Like it?

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  2. Reality Check says:

    I saw that presentation. It’s unsatisfying for several reasons, but probably accurate in its projections if other income sources don’t materialize. But they always seem to.

    As to it being “criminal” not to fund schools at a level teachers want, that rhetoric is part of the problem. Public schools will be funded at a level determined by the public. That’s how democratic government works.

    Missing from the SRCS site is any information on rising personnel costs, or that maybe they signed contracts the district couldn’t afford.

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  3. Terry says:

    Here are the multi year numbers from the SRCS site:


    Shows slight increas in the last two tears, obviously due to fed stim funds. But the real story is the substantial decline in the last five years. Failure to properly fund k-12 education is criminal.

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  4. Reality Check says:

    Total expenditures, Santa Rosa City Schools:

    FY 09-10 – $133.3 million
    FY 10-11 – $138.2 million +3.7%

    I suspect you are right that general fund revenue is down, but other sources have made up the difference. Bottom line, schools have more to spend this year than they did last year. I doubt most people realize that.

    Unfortunately, this budget doesn’t include multi-year data, so it’s impossible to see any clear trends.

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  5. Terry says:

    As I understand it, the revenue for the schools has not been growing slowly. In fact, while there was a slight increase last year due to federal stimulus funds, revenue is significantly down, by the 10′s of millions. Per pupil ADA money is something like $1000 less than it was a few years ago. And, last or second to last in the country.

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  6. Reality Check says:


    Thanks for finding the budget buried as an attachment to the minutes of a board meeting. Do you think they might have made it a tad easier to find? I heard it was buried somewhere, but didn’t think I should have to wade through every meeting looking.

    A cursory look at things suggests what I thought. District revenue has been growing slowly. The problem is on the expense side of things. We’ve locked ourselves into spending patterns that require revenue to grow faster than the underlying economy. A day of reckoning was inevitable.

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  7. Terry says:

    Reality Check says: February 23, 2011 at 5:33 am Why does virtually every article on this subject fail to answer the all important question of Why?
    How about comparing revenues this year to last. And then employee costs this year to last and even to 5 years ago, so people can see trend lines of where the money goes.
    Nope. We just discuss budget shortfalls and the cuts needed to close them.
    Contrary to some other school districts, Santa Rosa school budgets aren’t posted on the district’s web site. And the PD, apparently, doesn’t print them. In some states (Oregon) all public agencies have a summary of their budget printed in a local newspaper. Ah, transparency, what a concept.

    I just went on the Santa Rosa School Site and foudn the budget. This is public information and readily available, contrary to Reality Check’s assertion…


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  8. Mike says:

    All of these crocodile tears offered by the School Board and threats to cut school teaching days, increase class size and cut support staff does not address the real problem or resolve the fiscal mess the Board is enmeshed in.

    The real culprit in this drama is the very governor they supported and helped elect to office last November.

    Brown wouldn’t address or even mention one of the major budget busters facing California, public pensions and benefits. The teachers union, SEIU and other public unions spent millions to put politicans like Brown into office and now Brown comes down to tell the school boards accross the state to cut the school year, increase class sizes and cut non-teaching staff and programs.

    Brown has no answers to the state budget crisis which is impacting the school districts. He is pinning his hopes on tax increases. This in a state that is already paying some of the highest taxes in the nation.

    Threats and bullying of taxpayers has not worked so far and won’t work. Substantial, fundamental change is going to have to be made in how the state, local government and school districts fund government and education. Public pensions, benefits and wages are going to be sustantially reduced in the very near future.

    Laura Gonzales is right, they are being setup to fail by the very governor they put in office.

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  9. GAJ says:

    Next thing you know you’ll be asking the highest paid Santa Rosa Police Dispatcher to give up something to help our schools.

    That person makes $107,000 in pay alone.

    The average for those full time seems to be about $80k.


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  10. Jim says:

    @Eric Newman

    Why is it people who want to raise taxes always want to raise them on everyone else first?

    What is happening in Wisconsin are the Unions vs Taxpayers. And it is interesting to say the least.

    At least on one thing I think we agree; there should not have been _any_ bailouts.

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  11. Eric Newman says:

    Here’s the quick budget fix:

    A) Tax capital gains at income tax rate
    B) Raise marginal tax rates for upper 1% from 28% to 36%
    C) Fund Social Security in perpetuity by removing $107K cap
    D) Enact Tobin Tax on electronic financial transactions to raise $100B a year, and restore stability to markets
    E) In California, end commercial property tax Prop. 13 scam
    F) Enact CA oil severance tax, end corporate subsidies

    QED budget problem solved. Thank you very much.

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  12. Eric Newman says:

    “The money is there: all we need is political will”

    All this nonsense about ‘we have no money’ is a sleight of hand to disguise the fact that the Wall Street princes and the hedge fund dukes and lords have used their vast wealth to capture the political system to transfer the burden of maintaining the state apparatus on the paycheck earners.

    You know that the fix is in when the government threw $180B into the maw of one company, AIG, to make Goldman Sachs and the other major institutional investors whole, %100 on the dollar. That amount alone would back-fill every state budget deficit in the U.S. That’s where the money is. We will take it back, to create a decent society which serves the common good.

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  13. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Listening to anyone affiliated with a “Teachers Union” speak about their concerns for “the children” makes my stomach turn! PLEASE!!! The Auto Workers Union doesn’t fight for better quality of the cars they build anymore than the Teachers Union fights for better education. THAT’S NOT THEIR JOB! Their job is to make sure Teachers have jobs… PERIOD! Good teachers, bad teachers, it doesn’t matter too them and it shouldn’t. Let’s cut the crap & put the cards on the table! Trying to use children as human shields to protect your paycheck is disgraceful and ANYONE who pays Teachers Union Dues should be ashamed.

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  14. Eric Newman says:

    “The Big Lie: ‘We have no money’”

    The Egypt moment for the American working class has arrived in Madison, Wisconsin. The people are rising up to challenge the bogus conservative orthodoxy, drummed into us by the corporate media day and night, that insists that “we” have to tighten our belts and give up on living in a decent, fair, and humane society, because “we’re broke”. That is the Big Lie. There is vast wealth in this country, secreted away in secret tax shelters, off-shore shell companies, and tax loopholes. Nurses, teachers, firemen, city and county workers, university staff did not cause the Great Recession. They are part of the fabric of a genuine civilized society.

    The attempts by our corporate overlords and their hired stable of Fox-type pundits to pit private sector workers, who have seen their wages and benefits squeezed year after year, against public sector workers, who have taken cut after cut, is a cynical strategy that the ownership class has used for centuries to remain in power.

    Their day is coming to an end. The American people are waking up. We will reclaim our country from the cynical and sociopathic plutocracy and their hired political operatives who have brought us to this sorry state.

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  15. John says:

    This was floating around on Facebook. It fits this discussion well.

    Are you sick of highly paid teachers?

    Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit!

    We can get that for less than minimum wage.

    That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).

    Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

    However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

    LET’S SEE….

    That’s $585 X 180= $105,300

    per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

    What about those special

    education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an

    hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

    Wait a minute — there’s

    something wrong here! There sure is!

    The average teacher’s salary

    (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days

    = $277.77/per day/30

    students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!

    Make a teacher smile; repost this to show appreciation for all educators.


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  16. Don Martin says:

    The old answer given by the ultra liberals like Laura Gonzales is always cut the days kids are in school, increase class size and layoff support staff.

    They never think in terms of cutting teacher pensions and pay. Two huge reasons their budget deficit exists.

    With these progressives, student education always comes in last and it shows in the number graduating and in reading and math scores.

    Education to these progressives is always all about teacher salaries, benefits and pensions. There are good teachers, but many of them are discouraged or have dropped out of teaching because of the state of education.

    As a taxpayer in this community, their rhetoric, excuses, and inability to deliever a quality education to the students is inexcusable.

    More and more taxpayers are seeing this as evidenced in Madison and other states.

    Teachers need to step up and pay for their pensions, health plans and begin to really teach the basics instead of diversity and leftist ideas.

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  17. Reality Check says:

    Why does virtually every article on this subject fail to answer the all important question of Why?

    How about comparing revenues this year to last. And then employee costs this year to last and even to 5 years ago, so people can see trend lines of where the money goes.
    Nope. We just discuss budget shortfalls and the cuts needed to close them.

    Contrary to some other school districts, Santa Rosa school budgets aren’t posted on the district’s web site. And the PD, apparently, doesn’t print them. In some states (Oregon) all public agencies have a summary of their budget printed in a local newspaper. Ah, transparency, what a concept.

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  18. Reality Check says:


    Do you have any idea what you’re talking about? Teacher salaries vary WIDELY by district. 20 years of experience gets you an average of $65k or so. How is that outrageous? Most of the loss of revenue is due to the recession!

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  19. Mary R says:

    Has anyone thought about a 6% paycut and maybe a change to a 401K for retirement for the active and new teachers, like everyone else would be lucky to get in the private sector who fund these salarys and benefits?

    Many of these increases in class size and loss of revenue are due to increasing retirement costs and underfunded benefits. California’s teachers are among the highest paid in the nation with some of the most generous benefts.

    Why are we closing schools and laying off younger teachers before some shared sacrifice equivalent to what the parents and taxpayers are going through who are paying these bills. Does the Press Democrat do anything to cover these ridiculous retirements?

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  20. The impoverishment of our schools is Agenda21 also.The ‘dumbing down’ of our children is deliberate.It ‘s like the half dozen services that are traditionally the Government’s role are being tossed aside.But that which should be the domain of the private sector are in colution with ‘Public/Private Partnerships’.There’s a name for that kind of society.

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