Natomas School Board Race: District Finances

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz


We invited the 10 candidates running for Natomas Unified school board to answer questions submitted by readers. Today’s question asked:

“Less than a decade ago the Natomas Unified School District was on the brink of bankruptcy. Since then, district finances have improved, but earlier this year the school board had to cut millions from the budget. How would you help ensure the district remains financially stable?”

Here are the answers submitted by the deadline, in the order they were received:

Micah Grant

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on our economy — reducing the amount of financial resources available for school districts throughout California. However, compared to other local districts, Natomas Unified is on relatively good footing thanks to prudent fiscal management. As your Board Member, I’ve led efforts to reduce administrative costs and to boost our financial reserves in the event of an emergency. I’ve also instructed the district to look for ways to reduce expensive litigation costs, and I support routine audits to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars. During my tenure on the Board, I have also supported efforts to lower the interest rates on bond debt whenever possible. The efforts have saved valuable resources that will help keep us steady during turbulent financial times. I will continue to exercise oversight of the budget and all programs to ensure efficiency.

Mariana Corona Sabeniano

I will prioritize classroom funding and student support services to minimize learning loss. Students’ academic progress and connectedness is the most important indicator for how well NUSD is doing. Over 78% of NUSD’s funding comes from the state. I understand the budget cycle well and the importance of talking to legislators early and often regarding the needs of schools, including the desire for local control and unrestricted dollars. I also know the importance of coalition building, which includes joining forces with similar districts to advocate for mutual interests. For example, NUSD can join other growing districts to advocate for additional funding. Furthermore, advocacy at the federal level is vital to ensure any relief package includes funding for schools. During unprecedented times, I support efforts that bring in new revenue. This November, we have an opportunity to pass Proposition 15, which brings $9.5 million to NUSD and Natomas charter schools.

Sumiti Mehta

The 2010 financial crisis experienced by NUSD was the direct result of a lack of oversight by the district. Fortunately, newer board members have steered the district’s finances in right direction. While the loss of revenue for the current year is mitigated by one-time state funding and federal stimulus, funding for the immediate future remains uncertain. The funding will depend on the economic impact and recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown. As your board member, I will eliminate waste and ensure spending plans focus on student achievement and not cater to adult political interests. I will seek input from classroom teachers and parents during budgeting. When cuts are unavoidable, I will lead from the front and ask the board to forgo their stipend and negotiate a pay cut for management staff. I will support maintaining healthy reserves and make sure a balanced approach between budget cuts and use of reserve funds is adopted.

Monica Barrios

The board of education is responsible for passing a balanced budget, it starts with electing fiscally responsible, politically independent board members who know how to analyze budgets, negotiate contracts and make tough decisions that prioritize students. Budget challenges are on the horizon. Tough decisions will need to be made. I have the political independence and skills to solve the problems of the future. Most importantly, I do not accept contributions from political interest groups, so as an elected board member I will only be beholden to students, parents and our community.

Dr. Susan Heredia

As an experienced school board member, I led the turn-around of district finances with strong fiscal stewardship and ensured a healthy reserve. Our district budget is dependent on state finances and it’s difficult to know the extent to which COVID-19 will impact California’s economy and critical education funding. That’s why it’s so important to have experienced leaders on your school board making the hard decisions. Knowing the economic forecast, I supported making the hard decision to cut over $7M from the budget this year by reducing district office and administration staff. This foresight will help ease any future cuts Natomas will have to make. As a life-long educator, I pledge to make future cuts away from our classrooms, keep class sizes small, and continue supporting the programs our students need to succeed, like I.B., Career Technical Education programs, and investments in social-emotional services.

Christopher Alvarez

In order for the district to remain solvent and financially stable, it is important to be transparent, communicate effectively with stakeholders, and update financial projections regularly. I would work to help ensure the district is creating and adhering to long-term financial plans, staying current with economic information from the local, state, and federal levels, and collaborating with all stakeholders to ensure sound decisions are made. I believe this should be done without compromising the educational quality of our students. Once elected, I will focus on providing the best educational programs and services within the complex financial constraints of today’s economy.

RayNette Johnson

The budget is always a challenging topic, but necessary. To ensure financial stability, I will suggest uniting with the stakeholders and community and staying current with the latest financial information. Cutting funding such as after school programs is crucial to stay afloat, and reducing funding has its pros and cons. The overall impact may be severe at the beginning, but I’m sure we’ll get passed it and come out on top.

Scott Dosick

During my eight years as your school board member, I have led our district’s efforts to balance the budget each and every year while approving over 18% in raises for our teachers. I served as a member of the NUSD Budget Advisory Committee during the Great Recession. Last spring, anticipating the inevitable reductions in state public education funding, I voted to approve $7 million in cuts, mostly in the district office. NUSD has developed budget “crumple zones” and has fully funded reserves — but we need experienced board members who understand how to make strategic reductions while keeping cuts out of the classroom. We must continue to fund programs like IB, Gate, AP, CECA, and Career Technical Education programs. We also must protect our most vulnerable students by fully funding special education and English Language Learner programs. See more of my priorities at

Ericka Harden

I would ensure the district remains financially stable by meeting with the board and the superintendent. We need to trim the fat starting at the top. I would hope that all parties would agree and that the superintendent and all the associate superintendents would agree to a voluntary pay cut. Sacrifices need to be made and it needs to start with the administration.

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