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Budget Shortfall Expected to Trigger City School Cutbacks

January 23, 1991|DAVID SMOLLAR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A projected $37-million shortage in funding for San Diego city school programs for next year will mean less textbook and other materials for students as well as fewer employees, Supt. Tom Payzant warned Tuesday.

And, unlike in previous years, when early predictions of state budget deficits turned out to be unduly alarmist, Payzant said Tuesday that the state budget shortfall--now predicted at $7 billion--could worsen during the spring, depending on recessionary and war-related factors.

"This will be the toughest budget year we've ever faced," he said, noting that almost all of the district's general operating budget comes from state coffers. The district was forced to cut about $20 million during two consecutive years in the early 1980s.

"Obviously, what all of this means is that the only way for us to address our $37-million gap and reach our legally required balanced budget is to make deep cuts in expenditures"--about 7% of the total $560 million budget, Payzant said during a special briefing. "We will not be able to maintain the same level of programs and services that we have offered this year."

Although Payzant said it is too early to say what programs and services will be reduced or ended, the fact that 85% of the district's budget involves salaries means cuts in employee levels cannot be avoided.

"It is not possible to close a $37-million gap in the budget without cuts in staff and the elimination of programs and services," he said, although the number of actual layoffs will depend on how many positions can be eliminated through retirement, reassignment or resignation.

Payzant has already set up three committees of senior administrators, of representatives from various employee unions and of parents and community leaders to review all district programs and recommend reductions.

But he emphasized that an across-the-board increase in class sizes--California's are already among the nation's highest--by cutting the number of regular teachers would be a last resort.

"I'd look rather to non-classroom positions," which include resource teachers, counselors, clerical positions and management positions, Payzant said.

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