The Santa Rosa School Board voted on Wednesday to cut three days from the 2010-11 school year, eliminate spring sports at the middle and high schools and cut school resource officers to close a $5.6 million hole in next year’s budget.
The meeting was the culmination of months of debate over how to cut next year’s $88.2 million budget by 6.3 percent and prepare to cut another $4.7 million from the 2011-12 school year.
District officials also warned board members that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest budget proposal could mean an additional $3 million in cuts to come.
“Everyone needs to understand — we don’t have any money,” trustee Tad Wakefield said at the end of more than two hours of debate over the cuts.
“This never gets better so don’t wait for the good news to happen,” said associate Superintendent Doug Bower. “Start a new list because we are going to be doing it again next year if not sooner.”
In front of a standing room-only crowd of approximately 200 people at Santa Rosa City Council chambers Wednesday night, the board voted to increase most high school class sizes by one student, eliminate funding for campus police officers and cut the assistant principal position at Comstock Middle School, among other cost-saving measures.
In a meeting marked by somber speeches and pleas to save programs, there were a few bright spots.
After the board had voted to eliminate 7.6 full-time librarian jobs and run the system from one central office position, the board went into closed session and emerged to announce that it would rescind the cut and reconsider the issue on Feb. 24.
Teachers union president Dan Evans said the union is going back to the table to renegotiate issues related to librarians.
Union members are expected to vote on Feb. 17. That vote is crucial.
The shortened school year is expected to save the district nearly $1.4 million but is contingent upon support votes from affected unions. Officers representing both the food service and front office staff, as well as maintenance and warehouse crews have expressed support for shortening the school year.
Teachers, for whom three fewer days would translate to a pay cut of about 1.5 percent, have yet to endorse the plan.
Board members expressed deep regret over eliminating $250,000 in athletic funding that pays for spring sports at the middle and high schools.
Approximately 640 student athletes participate in spring sports in high school which include track, swimming, softball, baseball, badminton, boys tennis and boys golf.
Board members urged district officials to monitor a energy conservation plan and food service program that staff has suggested could generate enough funding to support the athletic programs, as well as some arts funding. The board intends to revisit the cuts to spring sports in April or May to see if they can be reversed.
Bower said the program has already shown signs of success.
“These are very achievable goals,” he said.