As San Diego Unified trustees near decision time on how to pare $80 million from the district budget, new details are emerging about their options. The cuts are the result of a $16 billion shortfall in state revenue, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to plug by cutting state programs — including schools — by 10 percent, suspending a proposition that sets minimum levels for school funding.

Central office cuts, originally set at $25 million, have been reduced to $19.3 million after groups of employees balked at some of the proposals, and asked to shift costs elsewhere. The central office handles the administrative side of school programs ranging from school bus upkeep to standardized testing, and manages services such as landscaping, custodial tasks, visual arts programs and school police, which are distributed to school sites but planned and organized by a central department.

The revised $19.3 million proposal restores six campus police officers, 96 custodial jobs and one custodial supervisor, three and a half instrumental music jobs, 13 landscapers and two payroll workers, among other employees whose jobs were in peril.

But the revision also proposes new cuts to the central offices: Cutting one administrative assistant who helps the Board of Education, four program managers who oversee curriculum in specific subjects, two and a quarter management jobs guiding the district’s compliance with state and federal testing requirements, nine more teachers who assist other educators, and roughly 22 spots in the Office of the Deputy Superintendent.

San Diego Unified is also considering slashing $6.06 million from centrally managed programs such as a truancy center and summer school, and $13.45 million by adjusting districtwide policies and practices — eliminating district cell phones, for instance.

Board members began debating other potential cuts Friday, though no action has been taken yet. One proposal to close central offices during Thanksgiving and spring break (an estimated $2.2 million savings) is in dispute. Board president Katherine Nakamura said the option wasn’t advisable; consultant Rick Knott said it might not save money, since the employees would take vacation time. Trustee John de Beck countered that the option was preferable to enlarging classes for gifted students, which would save the school district $710,000.

The school board is slated to decide which programs and services will be eliminated Tuesday.


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