Sonoma Valley Sun


Millions short, Sonoma School Board makes drastic cuts

Posted on February 15, 2024 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Facing a massive revenue deficit and dwindling reserves, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s Board of Trustees eliminated seven full-time secondary school and six full-time elementary school teaching jobs.

In all, 36 positions were eliminated. The cuts save the district about $2.5 million annually, with more to come – the reduction goal was initially $4.5 million. 

The unanimous vote came at an emotional board meeting on February 8. Twelve classified positions (full time equivalent) were eliminated, along with one elementary principal on special assignment,and one vice principal. 

The eliminated jobs – 24 certificated, 12 classified – were identified by title only, and factor into the budget for the 2024-25 school year. The district has until March 15 to notify the affected individuals. 

The district saw its revenue drop from $75 million last fiscal year to an estimated $67.5 million, as COVID funding ended. Projected economic conditions and enrollment were major factors as well.

While acknowledging the depletion of one-time funds, Trustee John Kelly blamed “fiscal mismanagement due to lack of rigor in budget balancing eight months ago. As a trustee, it’s critical for us to insist on balanced budgets with reasonable financial forecasts going forward.”

Kelly said district reserves have decreased by $3.4 million. 

The district is on notice from the Sonoma County Office of Education to get its books right. “The State minimum reserve for economic uncertainty has not been met,” SCOE has warned. “The elimination of structural deficit spending is critical to maintain required levels and avoid fiscal insolvency.”

The district’s first interim report projects unrestricted deficit spending of $4.8 million in 2023-24, $1.8 million in 2024-25 and $171,000 in 2025-26. There is a danger the district may be unable to meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year, according to the state education guidelines. 

The board has until May 15 to make $890,000 in additional cuts. Board Chair Troy Knox said a budget action committee will be formed to make recommendations.

The February 8 meeting saw more than 50 people offer public comments, most complaining about transparency and the lack of public input into the budget-cut decisions. 

“We were extremely disappointed with the lack of collaboration,” said Dennis Housman, co-president of Valley of the Moon Teachers Association. “Decisions like this shake up the entire educational community.”


Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA