JESSE B. GILL Staff Writer
Posted: 01/04/2010 07:43:37 PM PST

The Redlands Unified School District still isn’t sure what 2010 will hold in store, but the district is prepared for the worst.

The district has been forced to cut $16.2 million since the 2007-2008 school year as the state continues to slash education funding. Having made the “easier” cuts in the last three school years, the district has little choice but to start cutting programs.

“You’re going to see a very thorough and detailed budget reduction plan,” said Neal Waner, president of the district’s Board of Education. “But it’s going to be painful and it’s going to be ugly.”

The district will have to cut at least $11.68 million later this month.

The proposed budget reduction plan includes layoffs for more than 62 teachers, about nine classified employees, and one management employee. The plan also includes the elimination of the district’s Adult Education programming and its home-to-school bus transportation for high school students.

“We are forced to cut back and focus on our core purpose, which is K-12 education,” Waner said.

The Board of Education still is set to vote on the first phase of the budget reduction plan Jan. 12. But a new state budget set to be announced Friday could make even more cuts necessary.

California faces a budget shortfall of about $21 billion over the next 18 months. The deficit comes after years of making deep cuts in state programs.

Since February, California has made nearly $60 billion in adjustments to its annual spending plan including deep cuts to education.

“Education is the largest slice of the pie in California,” Waner said. “And we’ve taken larger than our share of the cut.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to unveil his latest spending plan Jan. 8 with cuts, requests for billions in additional federal aid and tax changes that include raiding a fund fed by a gasoline tax.

And now the RUSD is waiting to see what Schwarzenegger’s new budget has in store for the state’s schools. District officials aren’t expecting it to be good.

“I don’t believe that the state budget has improved any,” said Sherryl Avitabile, the RUSD’s superintendent of business services. “There’s a good possibility as the projected revenue for (the 2010-2011 fiscal year) continues to drop, the state education budget could also be reduced.”

The district has a multi-tiered budget reduction plan in place to cut as much as $20 million – on top of the $11.68 million it already has to cut. The district won’t know how much it will have to cut until Schwarzenegger passes announces his budget Friday.

The district’s Board of Education has bemoaned the way state legislators have continued to take money away from California public schools.

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