School officials warn of dire cuts

City News Service

The San Diego Unified School District would need to lay off employees, sell property and cash in reserves if mid-year budget cuts of more than $30 million become necessary, according to a report to the Board of Education this week.

Additionally, the mid-year cuts could cause a budget deficit of up to $118 million for the 2012-13 academic year, which would then require even more staff reductions and concessions from retained employees, such as deferred raises and a continued five-day furlough, Superintendent Bill Kowba reported, noting any potential budget solutions would have dire consequences.

The district may also have to close 10 or more schools and sell off more property next year, as well as increase class sizes, and make cuts to athletics and school security if state tax revenues fall below projections and education funding is reduced, a scenario which already appeared likely, Kowba said. Even without mid-year cuts the district could face a $60 million shortfall for the next academic year.

We’ve downsized, right-sized, consolidated, streamlined and any other fancy management theory I’ve talked about, but in reality what we’ve done is slashed, reorganized and closed,’' Kowba said.And yet that hasn’t been enough.’'

Board members feared state officials could take control of district operations if SDUSD loses its fiscal solvency, meaning the district cannot afford to continue the programs it is legally required to provide. Some board members called for voters to ask elected officials to stop school funding cuts.

“The solution to these problems is clear. We have got to let our representatives in Sacramento know that we will not take it anymore,’' said board member Kevin Beiser. “Let them know that we’re fed up, we’re done. We have to have enough money to educate our kids.’'

Officials said the district is in its sixth consecutive year of cutbacks. The district has cut some $450 million from the general fund since 2007, and eliminated 15 percent of its staff since 2008.

“This incessant education budget spiral must stop for the good of our students, our school district and our community,’' Kowba said.

The board on Tuesday also approved sending a request to the state Department of Education to declare emergency conditions for the Sept. 9 blackout, which forced district schools to close. If the request is granted, the district would receive credit for $3.4 million in state attendance and instructional time funding lost during the outage.