San Diego Unified Budget Gap Grows to $46.1 Million - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego Unified Budget Gap Grows to $46.1 Million

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Reduced state funding for special education left the San Diego Unified School District with budget gap $13 million bigger than expected, board members said Tuesday.

Combined with other shortfalls, the district is now looking at plugging a current-year budget gap estimated at $46.1 million, according to James Masias, SDUSD's chief financial officer.

The school board found ways to cover about $31 million in over-budget spending, and Masias has proposed another $15.4 million in cuts to balance the budget by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Board members said the state threw a curve ball at them when special education funding was cut.

"The rules of the game changed," said Shelia Jackson, the board president.

To help cover the remaining budget deficit, Masias recommended that the board dip into various accounts, including those involving arts and music and gifted-student programs. He said most of the money targeted is actually unspent budget carryover from previous fiscal years. None of it is for personnel expenses, he said.

School board member John De Beck said raiding funds with leftover money effectively punished those who scrimped to save.

If you're fiscally prudent, the school board will "yank it from you," De Beck said.

Jackson countered that thrifty district employees helped prevent layoffs.

Some of the funds the board want to use to balance the budget are in accounts frozen by Superintendent Terry Grier earlier this year to save money.

Grier said urban districts with more special education students were "slammed hard" by the state.

Because of changes precipitated by the state, the district's projected deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1 may rise from $63.1 million to about $71 million, Grier said.

The board needs to approve a final package of savings and deliver a report on the financial status of the district to the San Diego County Office of Education by March 15.

Copyright 2009, City News Service.

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