By James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Created: 03/31/2011 11:44:13 AM PDT

Local school district leaders say it looks like they’ll have to implement their worst-case-scenario budgets because no deal is in place for the state to bring in more tax revenue.

The San Bernardino City Unified School District will have to cut $25million from next year’s budget. Fontana Unified will have to cut nearly that much. District leaders say they planned for these cuts, but that doesn’t make them easier to swallow.

“In terms of preparedness, the board took responsibility and they made reductions based on the worst-case scenario,” said Cali Olsen-Binks, superintendent of the Fontana Unified School District. “But the additional (cuts) are devastating.”

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown presented a budget plan that made smaller cuts to public schools and called for a special June election in which voters would be asked to approve extending a set of tax increases. Brown said if the tax extensions weren’t approved, schools would see deep cuts.

As school district leaders put together their budgets for the coming year, most created two spending plans: one assuming voters would approve the tax increases and one assuming the tax measures would fail or never come to a vote. Legislative leaders said this week there won’t be a vote in June.

While officials in most local school districts say they are prepared for the worst, they also say there’s a chance – albeit a slim one – that schools will be spared.

“At any point, the governor and Legislature could decide to take the money from someplace else,” said Danny Tillman, president of the San Bernardino City Unified board.

But he added, “I’ve never been that hopeful.”

The San Bernardino school board in February approved $25million in cuts, including laying off teachers and administrators, increasing class sizes and calling for a 5percent pay cut for all district employees.

Had the tax measures made it to the ballot and been approved, the district would have had to cut only $9million, meaning many of the approved cuts could have been undone. Now, as it appears increasingly likely, the district will have to cut all $25million.

“We have to take action,” Tillman said. “We only budget to spend the money we get from the state.”

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