By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa School Board members are preparing to dust off their budget-cuts list in anticipation of potential mid-year reductions as state revenues continue to lag.
Board members expressed frustration Wednesday not only with the magnitude of the potential cuts, but the lack of clarity from the state over whether those cuts actually will occur.
Sonoma County’s largest school district already has twice tinkered with the school-year calendar as it tries to anticipate funding from Sacramento.
In September, the board added back three school days to the current calendar. But those dates could again be axed from the schedule if funding promises fall through.
Board President Frank Pugh said district officials will know more next month when state lawmakers are expected to decide whether to pull the budgetary “trigger” on scores of constituencies, including K-12 education.
If the state does not receive $4 billion more in revenue over the current fiscal year, the budget deal signed by lawmakers in Sacramento requires the state to impose approximately $1.75 billion in cuts to K-12 schools.
The state was $654 million short of revenue projections at the beginning of October, but Pugh questioned whether lawmakers would actually pull the trigger — saying it would cripple schools and incite wrath among voters.
“Do they have the guts to do it? I don’t know,” he said.
A full cut would mean a loss of $4.9 million to Santa Rosa City Schools, according to Kim Agrella, executive director of fiscal services.
“Where is that going to come from? It doesn’t exist,” Pugh said.
Santa Rosa Teachers Association President Andy Brennan said if the worst-case scenario comes to pass, the three school days the board added back to the current school year will again become furlough days.
By law, the district could cut up to seven additional days.
District officials did get a sliver of good news Wednesday with projections for the 2012-13 school year anticipating slight growth at middle and high schools.
“That is the first time I can say that to you since the early 2000s,” said Associate Superintendent Doug Bower. “It’s only 81 students out of 10,000, but it’s growth. That is a huge turnaround from where we have been.”
Staff writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.