By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Public schools got a $3 billion boost from Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday, but Sonoma County educators remained cautious about their budget prospects.
Human services officials also pointed to benefits and takeaways for children in the governor’s revised $88.8 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
“It’s a mixed bag,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County schools superintendent.
Put simply, the $3 billion is payback for about one-fourth of the $13 billion in school payments deferred by the state since 2007, Herrington said.
The remaining $10 billion owed to schools, he said, hinges on whether state lawmakers — and ultimately voters — approve tax extensions which the governor said are essential to his budget plans.
Without the tax extensions, deeper school budget cuts will be necessary, Herrington said.
Chris Heller, principal of Analy High School in Sebastopol, said he was hopeful the additional funding would rescind layoffs at his school.
Six Analy teachers have been notified of reduced work hours, he said. But Heller is not sure exactly how the budget would impact local schools, especially given the uncertain fate of the tax extensions.
“I am just happy it’s not another cut,” Heller said.
Carey Wheaton, a member of a group called Save Our Schools 2011, said the grassroots lobbying effort would continue.
“At this point, the immediate goal is still getting the word out to every student, teacher and parent and caring citizen to call, write and email Sacramento in favor of increased funding for education,” she said.
West County parents, teachers and students formed the group this spring in part over concerns that Analy and El Molino high schools could be forced to go from a seven-period day to a six-period day in 2012-13.
A seven-period day gives students a chance to take an extra elective, which many use for music programs, art, language and industrial arts opportunities.
Members have been passing out fliers at end-of-year school functions, started a Facebook page and created a website, saveourschools2011.net.
For Santa Rosa Junior College, the governor’s budget — known as the “May revise” — is “good news with an asterisk,” said Doug Roberts, vice president of business services at Santa Rosa Junior College.
SRJC had feared losing up to $16 million, and Brown’s proposal made that bleak outlook less likely, although college officials are still bracing for painful cuts.
“The worst case scenario may not be as bad as projected earlier, but it’s still bad,” Roberts said. “We just don’t know by how much.”
Jo Weber, county Human Services Department director, said the budget reduces the average welfare grant for a family of two from $516 a month to $475 a month.
In addition to that 8 percent cut in CalWORKS grants, children will also see graduated reductions after they have been covered for five years, she said.
About 8,800 people in Sonoma County, including 6,665 children, currently receive grants. “Poverty isn’t a choice for children. It’s beyond their control,” Weber said.
If the governor’s tax plans fail, Weber said she is concerned that an “all-cuts budget” could further erode CalWORKS, reduce in-home support services for the elderly and disabled, and eliminate adult protective services programs.
The budget includes a 25 percent increase in payments to people who provide foster homes to children. That amounts to $10.7 million more statewide, including an estimated $100,000 in Sonoma County, Weber said.
A state parks official said Monday there was no change in the impending closure of 70 of the 278 parks in the system, including Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Sugarloaf Ridge just outside the city, Jack London in Glen Ellen and 20 other North Coast parks.
Redevelopment advocates were dismayed by Brown’s continued call for elimination of 398 redevelopment agencies statewide.
Sonoma County Administrator Veronica Ferguson said staff was “still digesting” all the information in the revision and will put together a report for the Board of Supervisors next Tuesday.
Staff writers Randi Rossmann, Sam Scott and Kevin McCallum contributed to this report.