The fiscal difficulties of the Santa Barbara School District have been anything but secret during the past few years. While the addition of financial guru Eric Smith has gone a long way toward solidifying the budgetary numbers coming out of district headquarters in recent months, the fact remains that two straight years of multimillion dollar fund-slashing has left beloved and highly valuable educational programs and practices on the cutting room floor. Furthermore, declining enrollment, dipping South Coast property values, and California’s recently signed public education-damning state budget package all combine for a less than rosy fiscal forecast. According to District Superintendent Brian Sarvis, this forecast includes the “very real possibility” of mid-year cuts to education once again this year.
As part of efforts not only to protect but also to restore things like classroom music programs, math, science, and theater, during these trying times voters are being asked to approve two parcel tax measures-I2008 for the elementary school district and H2008 for the high school district. Specifically, Measure I, which would tax homeowners $27 per year from 2009 thru 2012, would supplement elementary-level math and science classes, enhance computer technologies, and allow for both the hiring of music teachers and the purchasing and refurbishment of instruments.
Similarly, Measure I, which would tax property owners $23 per year for the same period of time, would be earmarked to supplement high school math, science, and technology, while also helping out with junior-high-level arts, music, and theater programs. Additionally, Measure I would kick cash toward both the foreign language program and the effort to shrink 9th-grade math class sizes, the latter being one of the most bemoaned victims of last spring’s budget bloodletting.
The education-minded measures, which were proposed originally to the school board nearly two years ago by former boardmember Lanny Ebenstein as a hopeful money source, require a two-thirds vote of approval to become a reality. If approved, not only would the estimated $1.6 million generated annually be guaranteed to go entirely to the aforementioned programs-as in, the state would not have any access to it-but the specific spending of the money would be presided over by an independent citizen-based committee.