At a presentation Tuesday on the state of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget, San Diego Unified School District Chief Financial Officer William Kowba shed little new light on the district’s own financial plan, which must be approved by the end of the month.

As we reported today, two school board members have expressed concern that they have yet to see any portion of the budget ahead of its presentation in two weeks, which they described as a departure from the district’s usual routine. The board members again echoed their worries Tuesday, taking Kowba to task for the delay.

“I think we’re on autopilot. I don’t see any relevance of providing the board the information a week before the final budget,” school board member John de Beck said. “Our input is largely irrelevant. That’s the issue that faces us.”

Kowba conceded that the elected board will likely have little input in shaping the final budget, though he said the district will revisit the spending plan in September and October when attendance figures for San Diego schools become clear.

“We’re working as fast as we can,” Kowba said of the timing.

Board member Mitz Lee, another trustee who has expressed concern about board control of the district’s purse strings, said she was worried that the school board was implicitly ceding its budgetary power to the district’s superintendent and staff.

“I don’t want to relinquish that,” she said.

The only other trustee to offer public comments on the issue was board President Luis Acle, who remained sanguine. Acle, who said that the board would likely offer extensive opinion on the final budget when it’s presented on June 26, warned Kowba to “be prepared for a long work session.”

The board president has previously argued for a limited role for the elected board and said he felt that most major budget decisions should left to Superintendent Carl Cohn. He told the other trustees that the board should limit itself to shaping the “general direction” of the district.


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