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School district approves plan that may bring more layoffs

The board of the San Diego Unified School District approved a plan Tuesday to close a budget gap estimated at $33.2 million for this fiscal year, but a projected deficit in fiscal 2009-10 could result in teacher layoffs next year, officials said.

Jamie Masias, the district’s chief financial officer, said the deficit estimated was only a ballpark figure due to vagaries associated with the state budget, which has yet to be finalized.

Savings from “budget scrubbing’’ by several district officials will save $7.7 million in planned spending by the central office, Masias said. The district will forgo the purchase of some new buses, among other things, he said.

School board member John De Beck said that when the district fails to replace old buses, maintenance costs go up, and no savings are realized in the end.

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“Anticipation of almost no impact on maintenance costs is ridiculous,’' De Beck said.

The district will save $6.2 million by leaving 264 positions vacant, according to Masias.

The plan to close the gap passed on a 3-2 vote, with De Beck and Katherine Nakamura voting no. They wanted more information on specific cuts.

When the board turned its attention to the coming fiscal year, Masias warned they were looking at a projected deficit of $63.1 million.

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He presented board members with a series of options for closing the gap, including increasing class sizes by one student. That would eliminate the need for at least 260 teachers.

The board approved hundreds of teacher layoffs last spring, but ended up restoring most of the positions.

Superintendent Terry Grier warned board members that more belt-tightening lay ahead.

“It’s going to get more painful as the decisions get tougher,’' he said.

The district can offer early retirement packages, which would save more than $12 million and lessen the need for layoffs, he said.

Many of the proposed fixes will have to be negotiated with unions, and that makes the deficit projection for next year “really iffy,’' Nakamura said.

De Beck said he favors work furloughs, which he said could save the district $4.4 million per day, though that concept has not been floated as an option.

Spending cuts for the fiscal year that starts July 1 will be discussed at upcoming hearings.

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