Thursday, May 26, 2011
Even if the governor wins tax extensions, San Diego city schools will spend at least $23 million more than it takes in next year. One board of education member wants employee unions to agree to salary freezes to balance the budget.
SAN DIEGO After San Diego Unified Board of Education members learned this week that San Diego schools are on track to exhaust their fiscal reserves in the next two years, one board member is calling on unions to give up scheduled pay raises.
Over the next three school years San Diego Unified has agreed to pay out $88 million in salary increases.
That agreement was based on the belief the economy would pick up and San Diego voters would approve a parcel tax hike, according to Scott Barnett, one of the board trustees. Since neither happened, he said the district can’t afford to pay the raises and keep its current staff.
“This board unanimously asked all of our employee unions to sit down with us and discuss the issue of salary and benefits in order to save jobs. Every single one of them refused to even talk with us, except the police officers,” he said.
San Diego's teachers union argues the schools’ financial situation isn’t as dire as Barnett makes it out to be. A press release from the union called the three year budget projections ''imaginary.'
“Barnett is distorting the truth about the district’s budget in order to create a sense of panic that will further his own political career," said San Diego Education Association President Bill Freeman.
Barnett argued that the most concrete part of those projections are the district's costs, which is also what the board and staff have the most control over.
“No one’s giving raises in this country, in fact many are taking pay cuts. Every dollar we don’t spend on a raise next year is a dollar we can put toward saving a teacher,” he said.
If the governor’s current budget proposal is adopted city schools could get about $32 million more from the state for the coming year. But to get that money, schools would have to provide more mental health services than they do now.
The district has already planned $115 million in cuts to next year's budget, which leaves the schools spending $23 million more than they are expected to take in.
More than 750 teachers and even more non-teaching staff have been issued layoff notices as part of those planned cuts.