Faced with significant funding hits in the wake of the 1/9 Debris Flow, Montecito’s two public elementary schools — Cold Spring School and Montecito Union School — are struggling with the sorts of budget cuts that could lay off up-and-coming teachers and pare down specialty instruction, such as art and music. The projected financial impact is especially acute at Cold Spring, which has already launched a fundraising campaign to raise $485,000 by May 1, according to Principal Amy Alzina.
“We’re covered for the rest of this [school] year, but next year looks bad,” Alzina said. “The hard part in this planning stage is not knowing [exactly how severe the financial impact will be]. We have to notify teachers in March if their positions will still be available in the fall.” Alzina explained that 93 percent of Cold Spring’s $3.9 million budget comes from local property taxes. Hundreds of Montecito homes were destroyed or severely damaged by the January 9 natural disaster.
A second fundraising campaign for Cold Spring has been set up by school parent Eric Greenspan, via GoFundMe.
At Montecito Union — which operates under the same funding model as Cold Spring — Superintendent Anthony Ranii told boardmembers Tuesday that after numerous meetings with Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller representatives, the K-6 school can expect a revenue loss in the range of $1.2 million to $1.7 million next year, roughly 12-17 percent of the school’s budget. Ranii praised previous boards for building the school’s reserves over the years. “Because of that, we’re not in a crisis,” he said. However, he added, “That is a huge amount for our district to hearken to.”
Enrollment is projected to drop from 418 students this year to 387 in the fall. Ranii proposed drawing from reserves while making administrative, staffing, and other cuts; the board vote will be held at a special meeting March 5.
Both Ranii and Alzina said that some state legislators are trying to create what’s called a “property-tax backfill” to make disaster-impacted school districts financially whole for the 2018-19 school year. If successful, that funding would appear in the state budget, which won’t be unveiled until mid-June.