SDUSD board plans to cut $100 million next year

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education last night unanimously passed a plan of upcoming actions to deal with a looming budget deficit of almost $100 million in the next fiscal year.

The plan includes a list of cuts that will be dealt with over the next several months before the 2009-10 budget is adopted in June. Several of the items require the district to negotiate with labor unions.

The action plan that was approved allows the district to forward a required financial report to the county Office of Education next week showing that the budget for the current and upcoming fiscal years are balanced.

The plan “requires just about every student in this district to have bigger class sizes,’' board member Richard Herrera said. “Every employee is going to have a pay cut and have an impact on their benefits.’'

The largest savings in what the board called “Plan A’’ are the result of:

-a district-wide four-day work furlough that will save $16.6 million,

-an increase of four students per class from kindergarten through third grade, to save another $16.6 million,

-a 20 percent funding reduction for a myriad of state-mandated programs such as a professional development block grant, a violence prevention program and supplemental school counseling to save $11.7.

-School employees will also have health benefits reduced for a total savings to the district of nearly $13 million. Class sizes will also be increased in other grades, with varying amounts of savings.

Plan A saves the district $100.3 million, of which $34.5 million is subject to negotiations with organized labor.

If the unions don’t agree to some of the proposals, the school board will have to move on to Plan B, which approved on a 3-2 vote, with John De Beck and Katherine Nakamura dissenting.

Plan B includes closing smaller campuses and eliminating arts, cultural and athletic programs. None of those items would require union concessions.

“Plan B is what happens if Plan A doesn’t work,’' De Beck said. As a warning to student musicians in attendance who may have thought they saved band programs, he added, “You’re not safe. You’re basically getting a reprieve.’'

The board also directed staff to prepare to issue layoff notices to probationary teachers. District officials hope that 633 certified employees will accept an early-retirement package. If they don’t get that number, the new teachers will have to be let go to make up the difference.

Like the other plans, the action on the layoff notices does not reflect final approval.

For more information visit the San Diego Unified School District Web site