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San Diego School Officials Discuss Future Financial Uncertainties

San Diego Unified School District officials presented a report to the Board of Education Tuesday night stating the district can meet its financial obligations for the 2012-13 academic year due to potential budget cuts that could mean layoffs for about 1,155 employees, but financial uncertainties could make a balanced budget difficult for the 2013-14 academic year.

District officials expected to face a budget deficit of around $120 million in the 2012-13 academic year and up to $97 million the following year, according to G. Wayne Oetken, the district's interim chief financial officer.

"If this board had the power to vote away $122 million budget shortfall, we would instantly and unanimously have a vote to do away with that,'' said board President John Lee Evans.

"But as a school district, we can't print money and we are not going to go into debt to the state. We're going to be responsible and we're all going to work together on this.''

Budget solutions for the 2012-13 school year included layoffs for about 1,155 employees including nurses, counselors, vice principals, maintenance staff and teachers who would no longer be needed in September. The list also included $21.5 million in one-time proceeds from real estate sales.

The district was required to submit the report to the county Office of Education because it had submitted a "qualified'' status on the "Second Interim Report'' in March which stated it could meet its financial obligations this year and next year, but may not be able to the following year.

Around $80 million in potential solutions for the 2013-14 school year included eliminating the visual and performing arts program and all non- mandated transportation, along with a 50 percent reduction to the school police force. Eight schools could also be closed, according to the report.

The 2013-14 list also included health and welfare administrative changes, $7.5 million in early retirement incentives and a 7 percent salary rollback that could save the district about $43 million.

Board member Scott Barnett said that to assume the early retirement and a salary rollback when the district was not even in discussions, let alone negotiations, along with health and welfare savings were "pie in the sky and wishful thinking.''

"I think it's important for the public to know there are options out there and all our options are horrible,'' Barnett said.

Tonight's "Third Interim Report'' report required no action from the board.

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