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A draft budget proposal for San Diego Unified schools could cut $37 million compared to last year, which falls far short of the $93 million the school district has previously estimated it will have to slash.

But finance officials are still checking over the numbers. They’re also revising their estimates of how much money the district will get from the state, which could put the budget closer to the mark.

The budget was created by internal teams based on priorities that the school board chose. Interim Superintendent Bill Kowba briefed labor leaders on the proposal today, cautioning that the estimates were still being reviewed by San Diego Unified budget analysts and the numbers could change. It includes:

  • Eliminating funding for programs that take children to Balboa Park, Old Town and Camp Palomar to save roughly $6 million. Doing so would eliminate the equivalent of 61 full-time employees. School officials say they’d like to ensure that the cut was temporary and could be restored later.
  • Cutting $8.3 million from support services for maintenance and operations, largely by reducing outside contracts. Those savings, however, would come from “restricted” funds that are earmarked for specific purposes, while the state is expected to cut from the “unrestricted” funds that can be used for anything.
  • Eliminating five security officers who are placed at lower-performing elementary schools, which would bring the overall number of security officers to 22.
  • Cutting $2.5 million from transportation, including a busing contract with an outside company and transportation to Camp Palomar and other eliminated programs.

There’s an important caveat: While the plan includes $37 million in budget cuts, only $21 million of those cuts are from the “unrestricted” pool of money that California is considered most likely to cut.

Many other departments were slated to be consolidated or lose some funding, but there were few details about the exact services that could be cut. The internal teams also recommended sparing or adding to many departments, including counseling and nursing. For instance, they recommended increasing funding by $3.9 million for one department that helps elementary schools improve their instruction.

Kowba said that the full reports about exactly what would be cut would be available before the school board reviews the proposed budget plan on Tuesday.

— EMILY ALPERT

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