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Santa Rosa Schools OKs budget, dips into reserves

The Santa Rosa school board lopped $8.3 million from its budget for the upcoming school year, dropping its reserve fund to 1 percent, axing six days from the calendar and reducing general fund spending to $85 million.

The 6-0 vote Wednesday night made official what the board had been working on for months as it sought to carve millions of dollars from its overall spending plan.

"It looks extremely bleak," said Kim Agrella, executive director of fiscal services. "A lot of our solutions were one time."

Both the 2012-13 and subsequent year budgets were built on the assumption that Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal will fail in November.

The school board is bracing for an additional $13.25 million in cuts in the 2013-14 school year.

"The number $13 million is mindboggling to me," said trustee Ron Kristof. "$13 million would devastate us."

To reach the $8.3 million in cuts from the upcoming school year, Sonoma County's largest school district continued a six-day reduction in the school year.

It also dropped its reserve to 1 percent, about $1.3 million. Per state-approved exemptions, districts that fall below a 3 percent reserve must return to that funding level in the following year, putting even more pressure on cash-strapped operations.

Teachers union president Andy Brennan pressed the board to renew discussions of taking a parcel tax to the voters. He pointed to the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District's success earlier this month in asking its residents for an $89-per-parcel tax.

"There are definitely people out there who are willing to give money to education," he said prior to the budget vote. If the November state tax vote fails, "we have to go for a parcel tax," he said.


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