San Diego Unified School District approves superintendent’s plan to lay off employees, increase class sizes, to close budget gap



City News Service

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education voted 3-2 today to approve Superintendent Bill Kowba’s preliminary recommendation to lay off more than 1,100 employees and increase class sizes to close a projected budget gap that could reach $124 million in the next school year.

Kowba said preparation of next year’s budget would be driven by several key factors and assumptions including that employee concessions could not be included in budget planning until they were negotiated.

The solutions called for district staff to be reduced by 1,169 full-time positions, including about 800 teachers who would no longer be necessary because of larger class sizes. Cuts to nursing, counseling and police services were also recommended, as well as a 50 percent funding reduction for visual and performing arts programs.

The plan also calls for the district to sell off $21.5 million in real estate to mitigate the cuts.

The figures were formulated based on a worst-case scenario, the failure of Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative that would raise income taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year and a half-cent sales tax increase, which would drive a budget shortfall already projected to be $81 million to about $122 million to $124 million, according to district financial staff. The additional reductions if the measure fails would go into effect mid-year.

If the tax measure passes, the district would be funded at the same level it is during the current school year, minus about $9 million in transportation funding which would be cut regardless, according to financial staff.

“This year, the governor’s budget proposal for education is dependent upon the November election which means it’s very likely that we’re not going to see much change,” said board member Richard Barrera.

“If that ballot measure, or some ballot measure passes, all it means is that we don’t have additional cuts, it doesn’t mean additional revenue coming into the district.”