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San Francisco Board Turns Down Budget-Balancing Staff Layoffs

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Despite warnings from Superintendent of Schools Ramon Cortines that the San Francisco schools are on the verge of bankruptcy and that a state takeover of the district could result, the city board of education has refused Mr. Cortines's request to lay off nearly 330 district employees.

The district is likely to incur a deficit of more than $10 million in next year's $340-million budget as a result of the board's actions, Mr. Cortines said last week.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig also has warned the board that it may risk takeover by a state trustee if it submits an unbalanced budget to the state on July 1.

State education officials noted, however, that a state takeover of the district was not imminent.

'Already Too Thin'

The board voted 5 to 2 late last month to reject a proposal by Mr. Cortines to lay off 245 teachers and unanimously voted to retain 84 full-time staff members slated to be cut from the district payroll.

"There is not one cut that we could make that wouldn't hurt kids," said JoAnne Miller, the board's president. "We are already too thin.''

Ms. Miller said she viewed the budget cuts in terms of their likely impact on her children's favorite teachers and their extracurricular activities.

The board president said that the panel is seeking to put a quarter-of-a-cent sales tax for schools on the ballot and that she had received pledges from several city officials and community leaders that they would support the levy.

The tax would raise about $16 million next fiscal year if passed in August, or about $11 million if approved in November, Ms. Miller said.

Budget To Be Rejected?

Ms. Miller said the district, like the state, should be entitled to base its budget on projected, rather than known, revenues.

If the sales tax were to fail at the polls, or if the district's state-aid allotment were to fall short of expectations, she said, the district could lay off teachers later.

Noting that the state legislature must approve the sales-tax measure before it can be put on the ballot, Mr. Cortines said he could not count on revenue from the tax when he devised his budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

Because San Francisco has the unusual status of being both a city and a county school district, Mr. Cortines also serves as county superintendent, and he said he would use his power under that post to reject an out-of-balance budget.

The board has agreed to lay off 130 temporary and part-time staff members and to abolish 44 administrative positions.--ps

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