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Barnett fine tunes details on proposed school spending cuts

By City News Service

A San Diego Unified School District trustee said Tuesday he wants to cut spending on salaries and health benefits by about $70 million over three years to help balance the district’s budget.

Scott Barnett, who plans to try to sell the Board of Education on his plan in two weeks, said he wants salaries reduced by $58 million over the next three years and health care costs cut by $12 million.

“While the plan asks for significant sacrifices from our teachers and employees, the burden is shared fairly,” Barnett said.

Overall spending on salaries would be reduced by 9 percent. Pay cuts would be figured on a sliding scale in which higher-paid workers would lose more money, he said. Pay reductions would range from 1.75 percent for those earning less than $40,000 to 12.75 percent for those earning more than $165,000.

Around 2,200 SDUSD employees would be unaffected by Barnett’s plan.

The salary reduction could be rescinded if voters approve a property tax increase, he said. A similar tax did not get the 66 percent approval needed for passage in 2010.

Barnett said his plan was aimed at avoiding spending cuts that directly affect students.

“Most importantly, this plan would maintain educational programs and support services at the current level,” Barnett said. “Class sizes would not grow and we won’t need to cut arts, music or athletics.”

The district could lose about $30 million in state funding if state revenues do not meet mid-year targets. That could push the school district’s deficit to about $110 million.

Barnett’s budget plan does not account for the possible loss of $30 million in state funding. If that happens, class sizes would increase, and cuts would be made programs that directly affect students, he said.

The San Diego Education Association — the teacher’s union — has accused him of trying to “inflate and politicize” the district’s fiscal woes.