School trustee proposes salary cuts, parcel tax to close budget - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

School trustee proposes salary cuts, parcel tax to close budget gap

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego Unified School District trustee released a plan Monday that he said would save the district from insolvency, while a colleague called for sparing teachers and staff from bearing the burden of looming spending cuts.

Scott Barnett said his plan, which he will introduce at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, would save the district $60 million. The SDUSD faces the prospect of making budget cuts in the middle of the current school year and a projected shortfall that could top $100 million in the next academic year.

"My plan will not require closing schools; my plan will not require increased class sizes; my plan will not require laying off employees," Barnett told City News Service.

He will, however, target employee expenses, which he said make up 90 percent of the district's general fund spending. The school board has largely avoided major personnel cuts in the last five years of budgetary difficulties.

The highlights of his plan:

-- a 10 percent salary cut to save $60 million, using a sliding scale in which higher-paid employees would lose more than 10 percent and lower-wage workers would give up less than 10 percent;

-- having employees bear the costs of health plans other than Kaiser, to save $12 million;

-- putting off raises due teachers to save $20 million; and

-- holding another election on a $50 parcel tax which, if passed, would result in canceling out the pay reductions within six months.

A parcel tax ballot measure last November failed, gaining a majority of 4,000 votes out of nearly 264,000 ballots cast -- when it needed 66 percent approval. However it might pass this time because the public understands better the precarious nature of district finances, he said.

"We're facing either disaster or insolvency," Barnett said.

His plan would increase some costs, but continue raises that employees receive for years of service or other contractual reasons, and in September 2013 restore the five furlough days to the school year.

The employee concessions in his plan would require union approval.

"I know this plan has something for everyone to dislike," Barnett said. "Employees will bear the terrible burden of a pay cut and taxpayers will be asked to dig in their pockets, but this plan saves our district from insolvency and state takeover."

His colleague, John Lee Evans, said he wants to hold a discussion during Tuesday's meeting regarding budget options that don't place the brunt of mid-year cuts on the backs of teachers and other staff.

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