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San Diego School Board Hears More Grim Budget News

— The San Diego Unified School District budget for the next fiscal year will suffer whether or not Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposals are passed by voters, according to a presentation given to the Board of Education today.

According to the presentation, if the governor's mix of increased income taxes for those making over $250,000 per year and a half-cent hike in the sales tax is approved, state funding for local schools in the next academic year will be the same as this year -- but certain expenses, like fuel and utilities, almost always increase.

Brown has also proposed eliminating state funding for school transportation next year, forcing districts to come up with the money themselves or no longer offer bus rides to students.

District financial staff recommend that school board members take a long-term approach and not expect help from either improved state or national economies, or concessions from labor unions, until they actually occur.

San Diego Unified trustees were frustrated at their morning meeting with the staff's overview of how the district might cope with the resulting $124 million shortfall for next year. That overview includes 1,163 layoffs.

Board members received the proposal yesterday and said that did not leave enough time to make informed decisions. But Board President John Lee Evans said with cuts this deep every option is going to be distasteful.

“We want to have safety in our schools, police. We want to have music programs. They’re going through and doing the least damage they can but it’s still very damaging. These class size increases are ridiculous – but we have to consider them,” he said.

Under the proposal kindergarten through third grade class size could increase to 31 students. Fourth through eighth grade classes could have about 35 students and some high school classes could reach more than 36 students. Board members delayed voting on the blueprint in order to get more detailed information.

During an evening session board members will hear about the district’s unfunded commitments including fleet maintenance and school technology initiatives. Several unfunded programs still have to be reviewed, but they’ve already tallied more than $33 million in one-time costs and more than $56 million in annual costs.

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