By Michael J. Sorba Staff Writer

Posted: 01/28/2011 06:57:03 PM PST

FONTANA – The Fontana Unified School District would be forced to cut more than $25 million from its budget if voters don’t approve five-year extensions of several tax increases the Legislature imposed two years ago, officials say.

That scenario would force the district to identify the bare minimum slate of programs and services it’s legally obligated to provide and place everything else – such as athletics and music programs – on the chopping block, officials say.

“People need to understand we need these taxes,” said district Board member Leticia Garcia. “We need this special election to be successful.”

A recent poll released by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California says two-thirds of state voters support a special election.

Gov. Jerry Brown said in his budget proposal that he wants to ask voters to extend sales and income tax and vehicle license fee increases to help fill the state’s $25 billion deficit. He’s proposed the special election be held sometime in June. An election requires legislative approval.

It could decide if the Board of Education will have to cut about $11.8 million from its budget or approximately $25.3 million, said Alejandro Alvarez, associate superintendent of business services.

An $11,000 cap on health benefits and less than a dozen layoffs would solve the $11.8 million deficit, he said. If employee unions don’t agree to the cap more layoffs would be needed and the district could cut some programs, Alvarez said.

The district pays the full cost of health, dental, vision and life insurance benefits its employees receive, which amounts to an average of about $12,700 each, Alvarez said.

A district report says total benefits costs for employees, consisting of both health and pension benefits, will increase by about $8.1 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year beginning July 1.

Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks said the rise is entirely related to higher health insurance rates. Step and column pay raises for employees in the 2011-12 fiscal year are expected to cost an additional $2 million, the report says.

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