11:19 PM PDT on Sunday, April 3, 2011

By ERIN WALDNER
The Press-Enterprise

Administrators at the Banning Unified School District are projecting a $5.1 million deficit in 2011-12 and say the gap between money coming and money going out could grow to $8.1 million in 2012-13.

Christine Wallace, assistant superintendent of business services, attributed the deficit to a decline in state funding and enrollment.

The district’s first interim financial report for 2010-11 was classified as a negative certification, which means the district was projecting it would not meet its financial obligations this fiscal year or next. Banning was the only district in Riverside County with a negative certification.

For its second interim financial report the district submitted a qualified budget.

This means the district now thinks it can balance its budget for this year but may not meet its financial obligations in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The budget for those years is out of balance.

“We have to balance. We cannot submit an unbalanced budget,” Wallace said.

The district has until July to turn in a balanced budget to the Riverside County Office of Education. Wallace said a balanced budget will be presented to the local school board June 23 for approval.

Wallace said if the employee unions do not make reductions her office will have to give the board a list of possible budget cuts. She said a list of cuts has not been drafted because the district wants to give the unions a chance to first come up with their own concessions.

Yvonne Lanthripp is president of the Banning Teachers Association. She said in a statement, “The Banning Teachers Association expects the district to cut all unnecessary positions and programs before expecting reductions to the health and welfare of the teachers.”

SUPPORT STAFF WORRIES

Beth Caskie, a representative for the California School Employees Association, which includes classified staff, such as bus drivers and custodians, said the local chapter met with the district March 21 and asked about potential layoffs among classified workers and was told it was not known how many people may lose their jobs. She said the union expects the district to propose drastic reductions.

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