Faced with a colossal deficit, the school board is nudging labor unions at San Diego Unified to find ways to save money on health and welfare benefits.

The unions have a shared committee that handles benefits, which recommended earlier this week that no changes be made to health or welfare benefits for this school year. School Board President Shelia Jackson and Vice President Richard Barrera responded yesterday:

It is becoming clear, however, that in the current economic environment, and in the wake of the substantial cuts that have already been made, there are very few, if any, painless options remaining.

For these reasons, and regretfully, through this letter we ask that [the committee] commit to working out the details [for four suggested changes to the benefits plans] and/or other alternatives that result in equal or greater savings in health and welfare benefits costs.

Barrera said changes would need to be negotiated in the next three months. San Diego Unified faces a deficit for next school year that could range from $147 million to $203 million. It hasn’t come up with enough cuts to cover that cost — even if it makes every cut the administration has come up with.

EMILY ALPERT

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