Budget Hunting

Again revisiting the ongoing budget chaos plaguing the school district, the Santa Barbara School Board finally approved its unaudited figures for the 2006-07 school year at its meeting Tuesday night. Several questions remain as to how the board went from making more than $2 million in supposedly necessary cuts this past spring to having an apparent multimillion-dollar surplus just a few months later, in June.

Boardmembers-at the recommendation of district money guru Ed Diaz-approved last year’s numbers with a 4-0 vote. Trustee Bob No»l abstained. They voted despite a lack of clarity regarding the cause of the discrepancy. “What everyone wants to know is how we got from January to June. That answer will be forthcoming by the end of the month,” promised boardmembers before their vote. As it stands, the district looks to have about $2.7 million in surplus for the 2007-08 school year.

By a 4-1 vote, the board selected School Services of California (SSC) over Fiscal Crisis and Management Team (FCMAT) to conduct an independent analysis of the district’s budget and to make recommendations. No»l protested, as he had been lobbying for a FCMAT investigation since earlier this summer. The SSC investigation will cost an estimated $33,400-or $13,000 more than FCMAT-but trustees and Superintendent Brian Sarvis maintained that the SSC examination would be more thorough and precise.

Also-in light of the recently rediscovered money-the board selected specific junior high school electives to be reinstated, including seventh-grade Spanish, musical theater, leadership, and another section of eighth-grade Spanish at Goleta Valley; band, art, and vocal music at La Colina; art, music, and TV/video production at La Cumbre; and musical theater, advanced band, and jazz band at Santa Barbara Junior High-all at a cost of $340,000.

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