District cuts top $115 million

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt a $1.057 billion budget for the 2011-2012 school year that reflected $115.1 million in cuts, mainly due to the reduction of nearly 1,300 employees.

“This board is very, very aware that passing this budget is going to cause great damage to our schools in San Diego,” said board Vice President John Lee Evans. “We're not magicians. We can't pull the money out of a bag.”

Board member Kevin Beiser casting the sole opposing vote, stating that raising class sizes in the coming years will be detrimental to students.

“We have to approach this budget process completely different in the future,” Beiser said. “We need to start with K-3 class sizes at 20-1, then we have to build.”

The reduction of 1,288 positions means all grades will see class size increases except first, which will remain at 24 students per teacher. Third through sixth grades will see increases to 32 students per teacher, and kindergarten, second and third grades will increase to 29.5 students per class.

Some layoff notices may be rescinded upon adoption of a state budget which may provide the district up to an additional $36 million. If the district receives additional funds, restoring smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade is the top priority.

“The people we elect to Sacramento are the ones who decide how much money we get,” Evans said. “We only have the power to divide up the money that we have.”

District staff agreed to forgo raises for the coming year unless the district receives additional revenue and to continue a five-day furlough with corresponding salary reductions. District employees whose positions are not reinstated will retain their health care coverage until Sept. 30.

Even with the cuts, the district is expected to spend $60 million of its reserves during the 2011-2012 fiscal year and more than $100 million in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The district also plans to sell property including a portion of the Hoover High School site and property in Scripps Ranch and will negotiate a deal with the Little Italy Association for joint use of land adjacent to Washington Elementary School, to be used as a dog park. The sale of district property will generate a one-time revenue of $22 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Categories: KUSI