These SRCS budget questions have been asked at budget round table meetings or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What grades does this budget apply to?
This is the budget for the Santa Rosa City Schools Elementary (grades K-6) and High School (grades 7-12) districts. It does not include our charter schools, which have their own budgets.
What is the actual difference? How much of a reduction are you looking at?
We are reducing $4 million in the upcoming fiscal year and $4 million in FY18/19.
The Sonoma County Superintendent was concerned enough to think we have a problem. Do we have a problem?
Yes. The Our Best Thinking solutions and the community feedback and ideas will help us address the problem. The Sonoma County Office of Education has oversight over each district's budget in Sonoma County. When a district certifies itself as qualified (as we did), it is a cause for concern.
Is (Interim Chief Business Officer) Luz Cazares’s role to figure out what happened?
Yes. But first of all, she is focused on ensuring fiscal stability.
Have these round tables occurred before? If not, why not?
No they have not. The Superintendent is committed to working in a collaborative and transparent manner in all areas of the work here in Santa Rosa City Schools. In previous years, there had been collaborative committees with our Unions but not with our public.
Could we have some kind of financial collaborative group in the future?
Yes. The Superintendent has committed to having an adopted budget development process that includes a advisory committee.
Are neighboring districts going through these same problems?
Yes, to varying degrees. School districts throughout the state of California are all grappling with increased employee pension contributions to STRS and PERS. Many districts are also working their way through the revisions in the forecast - all downward - that the Governor released in January as part of the Proposed Budget.
How much does the Lottery pay for in our schools?
The District receives about 2.0M in unrestricted lottery revenue and 0.6M in restricted lottery revenue. The unrestricted lottery revenue helps fund programs and services that support our Special Education students, as well as some of our campus supervisor positions. The restricted lottery revenue helps fund student needs for textbooks and instructional materials.
Does the state take away some of their money for our school district if we raise more local money for our schools, for example with a parcel tax?
No. Parcel taxes enhance school district revenues without any corresponding loss in revenue from the State.
Do we pay for school police?No. The City assigns Student Resource Officers to our high schools at no charge to the District.
What is ADA and when is it determined?
Average Daily Attendance is what the State uses to fund school districts. It is taken at points throughout the school year. The revenue from these calculations is spread into monthly payments to the District. In 2015-2016 our Elementary and High School average was 94.64%
How much variation is there in ADA by student?
For the past three years, the average ADA was 94.3%. For the 2015-16 school year the ADA for our various grades were: Elementary 95.41%, Charters 95.39%, Middle Schools 94.96% High School 94.72%.
What is the ADA % now and how much better can we get?
For the past three years, the average ADA was 94.3%. For the 2015-16 school year the Weighted ADA for our various grades were: Elementary 95.41%, Charters 95.39%, Middle Schools 94.96% High School 94.72%. The District is always pursuing ways to increase ADA. Some of our Supplemental / Concentration money is used to contact families with attendance issues. The District also has community partnerships at some schools to improve ADA. There is a focus on reducing truancies by the State and SRCS.
Does the Saturday school (Elevate Academy) help our Average Daily Attendance (ADA)?
Yes. Saturday School helps us recover lost ADA however, the funding is delayed one year. More importantly, we want our students in school (except when they are sick) - that is where the teaching and learning happens.
Could we just not allow transfers out of our district?
Not for the upcoming school year. The current practice in the entire county is to allow the free movement of families between districts. The District has the right to deny families leaving; however, the County Office of Education reviews appeals to these decisions. Requests for transfers from SRCS have already been approved for the 17-18 school year but this can be a consideration for future years.
Did Superintendent Kitamura recently receive a 5% pay raise as was stated during a public comment at the last board meeting?
Board President Jenni Klose addressed this issue during the Board’s study session on 2/16/17. Superintendent Kitamura did not get a pay raise. She was hired for a new job, with significantly more responsibilities and pressure than her previous position as Associate Superintendent. President Klose stated that our superintendent is actually underpaid compared to comparably sized districts, and hiring someone from outside the district would have cost $30,000 - $50,000 more per year. Klose added that, although Santa Rosa City Schools is the largest of the 40 districts in Sonoma County by far, Superintendent Kitamura is the 5th highest paid superintendent, when considering salary and benefits.
Legally, the district is required to spend a certain percentage of its budget on teachers’ salaries and benefits (mentioned a percentage at the meeting - 50 something?) Do we?
Yes we do. There is a requirement that elementary school districts spend 60% of their general fund on “classroom expenditures” such as teachers and aides. The percent for high school districts is 50%.
How long ago did teachers get a raise?
In FY14/15, our teachers received a 2.5% salary increase. In FY15/16, they received a 3.0% salary increase, plus a $2500/year contribution for medical benefits.
Are the employee pensions part of the 71% in the pie (in the round table PPT presentation) for personnel?
Are we looking at the work calendar for some positions (for example, Restorative Specialists are 11-month employees but students aren’t in school during the summer)?
Yes, we are reviewing work calendar for positions including the Restorative Specialists. The reduction of a classified work calendar must be negotiated with CSEA.
How do we know the staffing ratio is not going to get worse here (Montgomery HS)?
Some secondary sites have very efficient staffing ratios and will see very little impact from the possible change. A staffing ratio is the number of students enrolled divided in a number of ways, by school, by all classes and by each classroom.
Were staffing cuts intended to be for teachers only?
No, the Possible Solutions list also includes reductions in administrative and support staff.
These last couple of years we didn’t hit our projected enrollment. Didn’t you cut sections?
Yes, but only through certificated retirements.
Where do the class size decisions happen? At the site level?
Class sections are allocated on projected student enrollment for each site. Sites then use student requests and current staff to allocate sections by subject area. Sites make programmatic decisions on class size based on student need and course requests. This is done with the understanding some classes will have higher enrollment and others lower by design.
Is there a large chance of classes being cut? How many courses are there in high school (if you are cutting 100 of them)? Sounds great on a spreadsheet to cut them, but you are affecting kids. Do principals think they can achieve the 100 course cuts?
There 2,022 classes (sections) at the middle and high schools for the 17/18 school year. Classes with historically low enrollment may be impacted by the staffing ratio change. For the 17/18 school year, the Possible Solutions has identified approximately 100 low-enrolled classes/sections.
Are you considering eliminating ANY class that has less than 15 students?
No. For example, some school sites offer AP classes that have fewer than 15 students enrolled. Course offerings are a site-level decision based on the overall allocation of sections divided amongst the class offerings at the school.
Would unique classes remain, like AP physics or metal shop?
Yes, school sites understand their students and families best and would determine if a particular class would remain. As they review student requests for classes, school site teams will identify which lower enrolled courses should be proposed for reduction and which should remain in their schedule.
How does the possible 31:1 staffing ratio affect honors classes?
When looking honors classes across the district, most are already fully enrolled. Classes with historically low enrollment may be impacted by the ratio change.
Please don’t take away the ability for students to take courses at the SRJC.
The current agreement with SRCS and SRJC is that up to 10% of SRCS high school students can be concurrently enrolled. There are no plans to reduce that number.
Could SRJC perhaps be an alternative to smaller honors courses at SRCS?
This is a possibility. It will take approval by Santa Rosa Junior College because they have a 10% cap on the number of high school students concurrently enrolled.
The district is currently adopting new math programs. Will we have the money for that?
The Instructional Materials Committee has recommended that the two math pilots in both elementary and secondary should move forward and be funded.
Any thought about looking at the SRTA recommendation list?
Santa Rosa Teachers Association (SRTA) recommendations were shared at the Fiscal Stabilization Committee meeting on Feb 2nd and some items are already included on the Possible Solutions list. The district would welcome receiving the recommendation list.
Are you looking into solar as a possible cost-saving option?
Yes, SRCS is looking at the viability of solar in conjunction with our Capital Facilities Program.
How about Bond money? Can’t we use that?
Bond money is designated, by law, for specific capital purposes only. It cannot be used on things like salaries and is not included in the general fund numbers.
Are we looking at Maintenance and Operations (M&O) efficiencies? Sometimes workers travel to and from sites and set up equipment over several days, when perhaps they could spend one whole day and finish the project, etc.
As this process continues, evaluating effectiveness in all district office departments is a priority. This includes but not limited to the following: Business Office, HR, Maintenance and Operations, Purchasing, Warehouse, Duplicating Services, Child Nutrition Services, and Technology. In the referenced Maintenance and Operations example, this occurs when staff has projects or emergency needs at multiple sites throughout SRCS.
Are we realizing savings from transportation costs?
The move to West County Transportation was estimated to save at least $0.5M per year starting in FY17/18. At a presentation to the Board on December 14, 2016 the Executive of WCTA informed the Board that yes we are on track to save at least that amount. We continue to work with West County Transportation to ensure these savings are realized.
Will you look into health care benefits for substitute teachers?
Not at this time.
We had a $7 million instructional materials fund. Could we take money out of there?
The $7 million in one-time funding has been set aside to replace textbooks and instructional materials that have not been replaced in over ten years and are not Common Core aligned.
There have been several questions about textbooks. Could you explain what the textbook situation is? Isn’t there a pool of money in our budget for textbooks that has been there for a while? Are we going to get textbooks next school year? Are we required by law to spend a certain amount of money on textbooks?
7 million one-time dollars have been allocated for textbooks in the current year. Currently there is an Instructional Materials Committee that includes teachers, representing both elementary and secondary teachers, that is prioritizing which disciplines and grade levels will purchase books and instructional materials this year for distribution next year. We are not required by law to spend a certain amount of money on textbooks.
The Fir Ridge project: Could it be liquidated and the money spent on other things in the district?
The Fir Ridge property is a partnership with the City of Santa Rosa. SRCS does not have the authority to sell this property per the agreement with the City and the conditions of the benefactor.
Is there any property tax payment info that we can look at re: Fir Ridge?
SRCS does not pay property taxes on the Fir Ridge property.
At the last District English Learner Advisory Committee meeting, they talked about the the Mike Hauser Academy. Will that program be cut?
No. The summer program is funded by some of our community partners, the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, as well a district contribution. The academy is planned for 200 of our 8th graders going into 9th grade and ready to go.
Regarding professional development possible cuts, are you including training regarding the Common Core? How proficient are our teachers in the Common Core? I do not want my kid to fall behind if his teacher isn’t proficient in Common Core and isn’t receiving professional development.
Yes, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are part of the professional development that teachers have been receiving. Our teachers have been training in the CCSS for the last three years and need less professional development from external sources. We are decreasing the amount of professional development contracts over the next three years as our teachers provide more professional development support in the CCSS for each other.
A parent said that in July 2016 she wrote letters to all of the board members, questioning a $4 million expenditure on contracts for coaching (BEST plus, etc)
The Possible Solution list has already identified a total $702,000 in professional development contracts projected to be reduced for next year.
How many coordinators are working that the district office?
Currently, the district office has a total of 6 coordinators in the following departments: Curriculum and Instruction (3), Student and Family Engagement (1), Special Education (1), and State and Federal Programs (1).
Are we looking at Student Engagement Activities Worker positions? Are they duplicating what is already provided at our schools by the Boys and Girls Club?
All positions are being evaluated. Student Engagement Workers provide extended day activities and also provide engagement activities during the school day. The elementary district qualifies for concentration funding and these positions are paid out of this funding and support those students who generate those funds.
Are you planning to cut College and Career Counselors (#3 in the “Our Best Thinking…)?
There is no proposal to reduce the College and Career Counselors. The two positions identified in #3 are coordinator positions currently at the District Office.
Can you explain #9 in the document “Our Best Thinking… Possible Solutions for FY 17/18 as of February 2, 2017”?
The district currently funds 28.9 FTE (full-time equivalent) Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) positions through the LCAP. The District is considering eliminating 2.0 FTE of the positions who are dedicated to implementing the initiatives in the LCAP.
Re: #9 on the “Our Best Thinking…” document… can we look at eliminating more TOSAs?
Yes. We will evaluate all positions.
Where could a parent find a list of courses that might be cut (#10 from the “Our Best Thinking… Possible Solutions for FY 17/18 as of February 2, 2017 document)?
No decision has been made about what will be reduced. The Board will take action on the solutions to our challenges on February 22, 2017. Students in secondary schools are currently signing up for courses. Student-driven master schedules are a high priority for our District, as we want the courses available that the students want to take with adequate numbers to support offering the course. That information will be coming shortly.
What about updating the “Our Best Thinking… Possible Solutions for FY 17/18” online? Where are you putting the new ideas that are generated in these meetings?
The ideas and questions are being posted on the SRCS Website. We will post a list of Proposed Solutions after presenting the Board with the feedback gathered at the Round Table Budget meetings and from the “my questions” emails at the Board Study session scheduled for February 16th.