By KERRY BENEFIELD and BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Agencies across Sonoma County were scrambling Tuesday to determine the impact of the $1 billion in statewide cuts Gov. Jerry Brown announced as part of his latest bid to balance the state’s budget.
The range of public services affected includes programs for the ailing and developmentally disabled, fees charged to the county for housing violent juvenile offenders and support for higher education.
An $80 million statewide reduction for K-12 education also could result in a shortened school calendar, Santa Rosa school officials said.
“These are deep cuts on top of the cuts we’ve already been making in the last couple of years,” Efren Carrillo, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, said of local government programs.
The governor also proposed charging counties $125,000 a year to continue housing each of the juvenile offenders considered among the most violent. That would boost state revenues by about $72 million a year.
“That’s going to have a huge impact on our probation system,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane.
A $30 million cut to the community college system threatens to increase Santa Rosa Junior College fees by an additional $10 a unit.
Sonoma State University expects to absorb a $2.3 million cut to its current school year budget as a result of a $100 million reduction for the California state university system. The reduction follows $11.5 million in cuts Sonoma State made this year, said SSU President Ruben Armiñana.
Education officials noted that the $80 million reduction in K-12 was far less than anticipated but warned that the potential for deep cuts remains for the 2012-13 school year.
“Our advice to districts is do not go back and reinstate (spending) because there are more cuts coming and anything you put in, you will have to take out,” said Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Steve Herrington. “We already know that the January budget is going to come out with more budget cuts. I would tell them to stay the course and keep the cuts they have already made in their budget so it will put them in a better position this May.”
The announcement Tuesday throws into confusion how the remaining days of the school year will play out in Sonoma County’s largest school district.
In September, the Santa Rosa School Board voted to add back a school day on Dec. 22 and tentatively approved the addition of classroom days on March 16 and April 6 when furloughs had previously been scheduled. In the same move, the board approved the possibility of adding a furlough day May 4 to replace the date added in December, should the district need to save as much as $466,700.
But those changes were dependent upon state budget triggers and on Tuesday it remained unclear whether Santa Rosa City Schools will in fact add furlough days in March, April and May to save as much as $1.3 million. The Dec. 22 school day will remain on the calendar regardless of the budget announcement.
“My understanding is that we will have to have the furlough days to make it work,” said School Board President Frank Pugh.
But Santa Rosa Teachers Association President Andy Brennan said changes in the calendar are subject to negotiation and might not be necessary in the end.
“There was also an understanding that if the trigger cuts were not as severe as expected, we were going to come back to the negotiating table to see how many of those furlough days come back,” he said.
Most school districts across Sonoma County had made pre-emptive cuts to prepare for worst-case scenario state revenues — numbers that did not materialize Tuesday — but could come into play in January when a 2012-13 budget is expected to be unveiled.
Anne Barron, interim chief financial officer for Cotati-Rohnert Park School District, said the district will have to tap reserves just to ride out the less-than-expected cuts for the current school year.
“There are not really spending cuts that we can make at this point in the school year,” she said. “We have cut everything that is not salaries.”
The impact of the trigger cuts on thousands of Medi-Cal recipients was not yet known, Sonoma County officials said.
The state would reduce by 20 percent the hours that in-home care patients qualify for. A Dec. 2 court order has temporarily stopped implementation of the cut.
Another trigger cut would eliminate a $380,000 fraud-prevention program that resolves disputes about the number of hours worked by in-home caregivers. The cut would not affect services to clients, county officials said.
“I’m grateful that, for the time being, our clients are relatively unaffected by the trigger cuts,” said Sonoma County Human Services Director Jo Weber.
Staff writer Martin Espinoza contributed to this story.