The $167 million budget approved by the Pajaro Valley school board late Wednesday night keeps the district in the black for the coming year as long as state legislators don’t do anything unexpected to close the state’s unprecedented $24 billion shortfall.
But the 4-3 vote was hardly a ringing endorsement for the spending plan, which will squeeze more children into kindergarten and third-grade classrooms, shutter elementary school libraries and end or reduce spending on everything from student health and athletics to campus maintenance and administration, not to mention leaving more than 250 people witout jobs.
Even at that, the district’s financial troubles are hardly over. As Barney Finlay, the County Office of Education chief business official, noted the 2009-10 school year budget relies on one-time federal money and leaves the 2010-11 budget $7.5 million in the hole, a gap the district must start addressing immediately. By state law, school district budgets, which are overseen by the county education offices, must be in the black three years out.
Trustees Doug Keegan, Sandra Nichols and Karen Osmundson voted against the budget. Keegan said he wouldn’t support any budget that closed elementary school libraries. Nichols, who proposed cutting salaries on a tier system that would take more from higher paid administrators, wanted to take another look at increased class sizes in kindergarten and third grade.