San Diego schools not close to budget solutions as 2010 ends - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego schools not close to budget solutions as 2010 ends

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education moved no closer to solving its years-long budget problems in 2010, and will head into next year with two new members and a superintendent in his first official year on the job.

The last estimate of the budget shortfall for the 2011-12 school year was about $120 million, down from $141 million, the figure used in the run-up to the November election, when a ballot measure that would have provided the district with $50 million annually was defeated.

The board unanimously supported Proposition J, which would have placed levies on residential and commercial properties within district boundaries.

However, barely a majority of voters approved of the measure, far short of the 66 percent required.

The SDUSD is in its fifth year of struggling to match spending with revenues.

Board members, three of whom this year were strong supporters of the San Diego Education Association -- which backed them, in turn -- have cut programs, reduced central office activities and implemented early retirement incentives, but avoided laying off teachers.

The two board members who questioned the priorities of the majority, Katherine Nakamura and John De Beck, were voted out of office. Nakamura was replaced by math teacher Kevin Beiser, while De Beck lost to budget analyst Scott Barnett in a close race. Beiser was strongly backed by teachers unions, while Barnett received lukewarm support.

"For many years, the district has not had a handle on its finances and personnel and does not have a grasp on how it spends its money," Barnett said.

District officials are hoping that improved data will help them in making critical financial decisions next year.

Their decisions will be guided, in part, by Superintendent Bill Kowba. He was appointed as superintendent in June to replace Terry Grier, who left for the same job in Houston.

Kowba, 58, filled the job for months on an interim basis before his official appointment while the school board conducted a search.

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