Santa Rosa City Schools is still grappling with how to cut approximately $376,000 from its 2012-13 budget despite slashing the school year by six days and dropping the budget reserve from three percent to one percent.

Sonoma County's largest school district has already approved the closure of the business computers and information technology pathway at Elsie Allen High School and the engineering technology pathway at Maria Carrillo, cut transportation funding by $500,000 and reduced employee dental benefits by $50,000 with the recommendation that coverage include two annual cleanings rather than the current four.

Cuts are expected to total $8.3 million from its $130 million budget when the board makes its final determination at the May 23 meeting.

"The clock is ticking on us to get this done," Associate Superintendent Doug Bower said at the board's regular meeting Wednesday night.

Still unclear is whether the district will realize approximately $400,000 in savings it had assumed when board members voted in March to close Doyle Park Elementary School at the end of the school year. That vote is now the subject of legal dispute.

Trustee Bill Carle asked staff to present the board with information of implications if the district drops its reserve down to 0.7 percent to cover the remaining $376,000 in cuts.

"At what point do you say &‘We are in really bad shape' and actually use the reserve?" he said. "I'm certainly not in favor of another furlough day."

"Just as part of the discussion, I wouldn't not look at that," he said. "I think it's worth looking at all aspects of it."

But Bower warned against such a move.

"It's money on paper, but it's pretty real in terms of just being able to stay solvent," he said.

In other business Wednesday night, Piner High School earned long-awaited approval for construction of its science and technology laboratory and astronomical observatory. The $2.6 million construction cost, split evenly between state and district funds primarily dedicated to maintenance and facilities projects, was approved 6-0.

Board member Laura Gonzalez was absent.

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at She can be reached at 526-8671 or