The San Diego Unified school board decided tonight that it will cut deeper into its savings unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a bill that restores funding for special education that was pulled at the 11th hour.

Doing so will thin the school district reserves from 2 percent to 0.67 percent, or roughly $7.5 million. If Schwarzenegger signs the bill, the school board pledged that it will restore the reserves to 2 percent. The school board voted 4 to 1 to take the step, with John de Beck dissenting.

San Diego Unified had to submit a revised budget plan after the County Office of Education conditionally approved its 2010-2011 budget, partly because it didn’t include the special education cuts.

The school board made the decision just after hearing that it outspent its revenues again last year, cutting deeper into its funds.

Phil Stover, who oversees business operations in the school district, said there were no wild swings in spending compared to what it had projected, but San Diego Unified had nonetheless spent $4.2 million more than expected. Overall, its balances dropped by roughly $66 million over the 2009-2010 year.

“That’s really going to cause us challenges as we move forward,” Stover said. “There’s less and less of those extra dollars … we can use to solve our problems.”

School board President Richard Barrera urged people to call the governor and encourage him to sign a bill that would reverse cuts to special education funding, allowing San Diego Unified to restore its reserves. Schwarzenegger was initially expected to sign the bill last week and advocates say they believe he will do so, but he has yet to actually approve the bill.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665. And follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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