Two teachers will have their hours reduced, two support staff positions were eliminated and four others reduced, and six administrators will take furlough days, the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District board unanimously agreed Tuesday as they sought to address a $1.43 million budget deficit.
The decision will save the district $355,260 in personnel costs.
In addition, the board rescinded a previous decision to allocate $500,000 to renovate the deteriorating east parking lot on the high school campus.
Board members also unanimously approved a resolution changing the minimum reserve fund from 30 percent of expenditures to a flat $3 million, a move that could free up $1 million to $1.5 million.
The reductions came in response to pleas from teachers, support staff, students and parents to keep cuts as far away from classrooms and students as possible during a special March 4 board meeting.
At that time, the board was presented with a number of options for cutting costs, including the potential of laying off some teachers and support staff, reducing the hours of others and combining administrative positions.
Over the next eight days, district administration and staff as well as board members mulled over the options and came back Monday with the alternative proposals that did not include teacher layoffs but did eliminate support staff.
Combined with administrative furlough days, the savings totaled $355,260.
Some members of the public who addressed the board thanked them for keeping cuts as far away from the classrooms as possible, but they still argued for saving support staff positions.
Athletic Director Cris Avery asked the board to wait before laying off a number of support staff, including Cathy Rick, athletic secretary and staff services person, and Gordon Whyte in campus supervision, noting there is no deadline for notifying support staff as there is for certificated staff.
“It does buy you a little time to come up with creative solutions,” Avery said, adding it would be “devastating” if Rick was cut and calling Whyte a “relief valve” for student tensions.
Julie Kennedy said that in going through previous budgets, she found revenues were always greater than projected, and she also urged a delay.
“Certain cuts are unrecoverable,” she said, referring to a previous elimination of French and Latin foreign language classes. “You never get those back. My recommendation, honestly, is you let it ride one more year.”
Heather Blanchard encouraged the district to form a citizens budget oversight committee to look at expenses.
“Shouldn’t a district’s first priority be to not cut teachers and programs?” she said, specifically asking the board to not eliminate the introduction to education class, which she said has 19 students enrolled.
“If only one of those students goes on to become a teacher, then the program paid for itself,” Blanchard said.
Former Solvang City Councilwoman Joan Jamieson said she sympathized with the board’s position.
“I used to sit where you are and I know how tough the decisions are you have to make,” she said. “Do not do it on the backs of the kids and teachers.”
Board member Dr. John Baeke said he would support forming a budget oversight committee but went a step farther.
“I think we need to give thought to hiring a professional consultant who’s walked down this (path) with other districts,” he said.
Baeke added that the decision they were voting on was the best solution he could come up with and prayed it was the right one.
The 5-0 vote resulted in layoffs of the full-time staff services person and in-house supervisor and reducing the hours for the registrar and accountant from 12 months to 10 months and reducing the hours of the assistant to the superintendent and assistant to the principal from 12 months to 11 months.
The total savings was pegged at $155,696.
When it came to the proposal for administrators and teachers, no layoffs were recommended, although a special education teacher who resigned would not be replaced, two teachers would have their hours reduced and one English teacher who retired would be replaced with less-senior staff.
In addition, the superintendent, principal and assistant principal would take five furlough days each, and the business manager, head guidance counselor and a guidance counselor would take three furlough days each.
Joanne King asked the board how much those furlough days would really save the district.
“Why not renegotiate the salaries of the administrators?” she asked, drawing a murmur of assent from the audience.
Board members voted 5-0 to approve the staff recommendation for a total savings of $199,564.
Board members also voted 5-0 to rescind last November’s decision to allocate $500,000 to renovate the east parking lot, although the staff indicated that project could be reinstated when the district receives an anticipated $7.2 million to $8.5 million in Proposition 51 funds.
After the vote, Baeke said there are a lot of chuck holes opening in the parking lot that are a liability to the district, and he advised “jumping on them immediately” when the funds are received.
Superintendent Scott Cory said the district is already working on contingency plans for the parking lot.