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Proposed state budget has school district ‘cautiously optimistic’

San Diego Unified School District officials said Friday they are “cautiously optimistic” about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state budget proposal because it guarantees $50 billion in education funding.

The district and other local government agencies have been waiting for the spending plan to estimate how much state funding will be available for the next fiscal year.

Schwarzenegger said he will fulfill voter-approved Proposition 98, which guarantees state funds for education of around $50 billion, and spare further decreases in school funds by seeking the majority of cuts from Health and Human Services, employee compensation and prisons.

Local officials said the proposed state budget saves school districts from having to deal with potential worst-case scenarios when putting together their own budgets.

“We are pleased that he has protected education from the drastic cuts we faced last year,” said school district spokeswoman Bernie Rhinerson. “We will be evaluating the budget to determine specific impacts.”

The proposed budget does call for school districts statewide to cut administrative costs by a total of $1.5 billion.

The SDUSD has already substantially slashed central office operations in the past two years.

There could also be reduced funding for the maintenance of smaller class sizes for grades K-3.

Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal was far kinder to higher education. Both the University of California and California State University systems are in line for substantial funding increases.

Donald Steuer, the chief financial officer for the county of San Diego, said it will take a week to determine the impact of the governor’s budget proposal on the city’s budget.

Health and Human Services funding, which could sustain major cuts, is a major county function and an area that is “most vulnerable” locally, Steuer said.

He said San Diego County is already facing budget pressure from declining sales and property tax revenues.

All of his proposals need to go through a bitterly divided legislature for approval.

Schwarzenegger said the state needs to close a $19.9 billion budget gap for the 2010-11 fiscal year.