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Huge State Deficit Means Major School Cuts

The Long Beach Unified School District could face $28 million in current year cuts if governor Gray Davis' proposed state cuts are approved by the California Legislature. That amounts to a cut of about $300 per student for this year--with even more cuts likely for the 2003-04 fiscal year. "This is the worst state budget deficit in California history," said Larry Bozanich, LBUSD financial services officer. "Public schools will be hard hit. We cannot expect to make mid-year cuts of this magnitude. Above all, we must protect classroom instruction of students and live within what could be greatly reduced means." The economic slowdown after 9/11 and the energy crisis have contributed to the state's recent $21 billion budget shortfall--a deficit that some now estimate to be closer to $30 billion. With a sluggish economy and reduced state revenue, the state deficit could grow to $40 billion or higher. With the fiscal year almost half over and more than 80 percent of district operating funds allocated to salaries and benefits--most tied to contract commitments--it would be impossible to implement large cuts at this late date. Last year, many programs had not yet been implemented at the time of the cuts, so they could be eliminated with less trauma. That's not the case with making mid-year cuts. The bleak budget outlook for the state and California schools may require a combination of major spending cuts and higher taxes being considered in a special session of the Legislature this month. The bottom line is that throughout the state public education now faces major cuts. No school district is likely to be spared.