In an unprecedented action, almost $21 million in additional salary and student program cuts--on top of $9.6 million slashed last month--were proposed Monday by Supt. Tom Payzant to balance the San Diego city schools budget for fiscal year 1992-93.
The scope of the suggested cutbacks stunned board members as they learned of Payzant's harsh medicine: raise class size by one-half student; cut employees salaries by up to 2.6%; eliminate all supplementary English, elementary music, basic sex education and career counseling programs; severely reduce nurses, basic school counselors, night school patrols, and maintenance; and cut golf, water polo, swimming and soccer from high school athletics.
In initial reactions, the trustees were far apart on basic philosophical issues regarding the proposed cutbacks, and they asked Payzant for more information in preparing for contentious public hearings on the newest cuts beginning at 5 p.m. today.
Trustee John De Beck, joined by colleague Sue Braun, argued that the board should ask its employee unions to absorb most or all of the $20.8 million, saying that lower pay is preferable to eliminating classroom programs, athletics, maintenance and other activities long operated by the district.
"School employees are going to have to join together and accept small cuts in their salaries to preserve what kids need," De Beck said in a statement to the board. The additional cuts would eliminate 180 positions, but the district would be able to let go only about 20 tenured instructors in July because it let a state deadline pass this spring without notifying teachers of potential layoffs, as required by law.
But trustee Shirley Weber, in statements strongly backed by Supt. Payzant, countered that "it's unfair to ask employees to do the same job, or 1 1/2 jobs, for less money, no matter how great the cause."
Weber called for the board to examine and, if necessary, eliminate programs less central to the district's mission, saying "we can't be everything to everybody. . . . We don't get criticized by the public because we don't have good football teams but because we don't teach our kids to read, write, add and subtract at a competitive level, period."
The proposed cuts, added to those already made, represent about $30 million, or almost 7% of the district's $403 million for general operations and regular programs. Additional state funds of about $150 million are received each year for targeted programs such as integration and special education. The district was forced to cut $20 million in the early 1980s as a result of reductions brought about by the effects of Proposition 13.
The latest $20.8 million gap in Payzant's budget comes after state financial planners discovered late last month that California's proposed budget is almost $6 billion short of the money needed to continue current services throughout the state.
Administrators estimate that kindergarten-through-12th-grade education statewide accounts for $1 billion to $1.8 billion of that gap, and that San Diego's share is about 2%, or at least $20.8 million.
Although Payzant warned Monday that the deficit could actually grow worse, he also held out some hope that it could be less than the $20.8 million.
For that reason, his latest proposals would be implemented in three phases, based on priorities set by his top assistants last week. But he wants action on all of them by June 23, in time to begin the 1992-93 fiscal year on time July 1 with at least a tentative document.
The first phase would slash $9.4 million more by eliminating music, career counselors and sex education; by reducing police and counseling services and by not giving employees a potential 0.6% cost-of-living increase. There would be a $4-million savings by paying medical insurers 12 times a year instead of 10 beginning in January, a one-time-only savings should the companies agree to forgo interest they would lose under the arrangement.
The second phase would reduce the budget another $4.3 million with a 12.5% cut, or $200,000, in sports; the elimination of 36 teaching positions, for about $1.85 million, in supplementary English; $1 million in maintenance and other business services; and $1.3 million in cuts in nursing and books and related classroom supplies. High school principals met last week and recommended unanimously that water polo, swimming, soccer and golf be dropped.
In the final phase, employees would be asked for a 1% salary rollback to save $4.2 million. Employees already are being asked to take two days off without pay, which equates to a 1.07% cut, but the newest request would be a straight pay cut.
Also in the final phase, class size would be increased by one-half student in all grades. Present levels are an average one teacher to 30 students in elementary school, an average one teacher for 34 students in middle school and an average one to 35 for high schools.