School District Tackles $2.5 Million Problem

Teaching Positions, Operating Budgets Getting Chopped

Facing a $2.5 million shortfall for the 2017-18 school year, Santa Barbara Unified School District number crunchers have taken a fine-tooth comb to the budget on two fronts. First up, they’re cutting back on full-time teachers ​— ​seven at the elementary level and four at secondary ​— ​to save nearly $900,000, a move in alignment with the district’s projected dip in enrollment as birth rates dropped during the outset of the Great Recession. The second prong probes the district’s $35 million operations budget, where cuts in software platforms and phone services, for example, have eliminated roughly $400,000 in unnecessary overhead. The district is aiming to trim another $800,000 from the operations budget, which, combined with other cuts, will close the gap entirely, said Superintendent Cary Matsuoka. “We’ll keep cleaning it up until we close the books [in June], and we’ll have the $2.5 million problem solved.”

Specifically at Open Alternative School (OAS), which has been under the microscope since the fall, “we don’t anticipate feeling the cuts,” said Alex Tashma, a former administrator now teaching 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the small school situated on La Colina Junior High School campus. However, the K-8 will no longer offer 7th and 8th grades starting in the fall, and La Colina Principal David Ortiz will oversee both schools. Tashma said that OAS has been ramping up its recruiting efforts and will be relying more on private donations to pick up any slack created by district-wide budgetary adjustments.

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