By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa City Schools trustees Wednesday night cut two days from the 2011-12 school year, eliminated six librarian positions and slashed office support across the district to reach its $3 million budget-reduction goal.
Trustees also moved to strike deeper into its anticipated $83 million budget for next year by targeting an additional $5 million in cuts should a handful of statewide tax extensions either fail to make the ballot or be rejected by voters in June.
That includes cutting six days from the 2011-12 calendar, increasing class sizes at the middle school level from 28 to 30 students and eliminating seven full time teaching positions to save the district $420,000.
“We made a choice tonight. It’s not a choice I like, it’s not a choice I relish,” said trustee Laura Gonzalez as she urged members of the audience to lobby for the tax extensions. “If this is what you want, then you need to help us as well.”
The district this year has three fewer instructional days than usual as a money saving measure.
If the taxes expire, three additional classroom days will be cut next budget year along with one professional development day.
Despite scores of people turning out in support, an eleventh-hour move that saved the district’s six librarian positions never surfaced Wednesday and the jobs were eliminated. The board followed that vote with a decision to spend $100,000 for one district-wide librarian position to oversee support staff at each school library site.
Not good enough, said Maria Carrillo High School librarian Sonja Bedford.
“You don’t have school libraries without teacher librarians,” she said. “If this is a financial problem, let’s talk about the possibility of another furlough day.”
But teachers union president Andy Brennan said the 900 unions members already are facing the possibility of a six-day cut if the taxes fail.
“It comes down to a difficult situation of looking out for everyone,” he said. “Some people can take a pay cut and some people can’t. It was hard to sell it to the wider membership, especially with the six (days).”
All six current teacher librarians are scheduled to return to the classroom and are not expected to lose their jobs.
Trustee Bill Carle gave librarians, and the support counselors cut last month, a glimmer of hope with a follow-up motion that would tap one-time federal stimulus money for a one-year reprieve. But reinstatement is contingent on the tax extensions passing in June.
The two furlough days — scheduled for the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving — represent a 1 percent pay cut on average for teachers. Support staff and administrators will take a commensurate cut.
The district also cut four full-time office staff positions from middle and high schools, reduced district office clerical staff by 3.4 positions and cut district office administration by 1.4 jobs. Combined, those will save $431,000.
The only cheering Wednesday night came when the board voted to spend $35,400 to reinstate a previously cut position of early college magnet coordinator at Piner High School.
For weeks, Piner boosters have lobbied the board to reinstate the position, noting that no other magnet program in the district is run without a faculty advisor.
The board also voted to allot $35,000 for a curriculum resource assistant at Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts.