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Feb 19, 2010 2:15 AM by Monica Quintero

Santa Barbara County schools face tough decisions

School districts in Santa Barbara County are tackling some tough decisions ahead as they look to balance the budget. Several have shortfalls in the millions. District leaders are working to figure out where the cuts could come from and how deep they need to be. The deadline to send out potential layoff notices is March 15th.

Like many others, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District is dealing with negative numbers. Those numbers add up to a deficit totaling more than four million dollars. Dr. Doug Kimberly, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Superintendent, said, "They have one opportunity for a high school experience and they didn't choose to go to high school in the worst economic time in the history of California."

A budget advisory committee made of up of district leaders, students, and community members are considering around 200 options for potential cuts. Dr. Kimberly said, "We haven't really addressed direct program elimination. We've addressed everything else." Nothing is off the table, but limiting direct impact to students is the top priority. Mark Goodman, Santa Maria Faculty Association President, said, "Teachers that work with the students directly are half of the budget. The fortunate thing is the other half is indirectly related to the students."

Alyssa Brigham is a senior at Righetti High School. She's also a student representative on the advisory board. She said, "Seeing teachers and staff being let go is just really painful. Some cuts, like cutting out our career center and stuff that would just really hurt students. There's some minor cuts I know we're going to have to make." There's a list of potential cuts that's several pages long. Districts said they often overshoot on the number of possible layoffs just to be safe. Other options include larger class sizes and furloughs. All districts must have a balanced budget by June 30th.

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