Santa Barbara Unified Looks to Cut Deficit in Half

Superintendent Matsuoka Announces Nearly $4M in Savings Already Carved Out of Budget

Superintendent Cary Matsuoka at Tuesday nights School Board meeting. | Credit: Paul Wellman

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The Santa Barbara Unified School District is chipping away at its $10.9 million structural budget deficit.

Superintendent Cary Matsuoka announced Tuesday that more than $3.8 million in savings has already been carved out of the budget. The goal is to cut the overall deficit by 50 percent next month — there is $1.7 million left. The push behind the speedy timeline is to negotiate better salaries and benefits for district teachers at upcoming union labor negotiations. 

“It’s not a secret. All of this is helping us get ready for negotiations,” Matsuoka said to the school boardmembers. “I’m very confident that by February 11 in closed session we will get you some final data so that you can authorize some numbers that we can take to the table.”

He emphasized that no staff or programs will be cut as a part of the deficit reduction. 

Matsuoka touched on the easier-to-find savings like the $250,000 saved by reducing staff travel and conference funds to mandatory trips only. He said he found another $380,000 in savings from the staff laptop program by requiring staff to use laptops several years longer. 

The largest single reduction from the so-far $3.8 million in savings, though, came from the special education department. According to Matsuoka, the $825,000 saved from the special education department funds, though at first glance appears to be related to staff cuts, is not.

“We actually tried to be overstaffed in special ed because we always run into people departing,” Matsuoka said. “Right now, we just can’t fill the positions. We can’t find people to hire.”

Frann Wageneck, the assistant superintendent who oversees special education in the district, said that the department isn’t fully staffed, though not because the district isn’t hiring. She said there is one vacant special education teacher position at La Cumbre Junior High that the district has tried to fill all year, but to no avail. Because of the lack of candidates willing to work in the special education department, the district is saving $825,000.

The next budget update will be presented to the board on February 11. To see Matsuoka’s more detailed breakdown of the budget deficit, click here. 

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