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District to vote on iffy budget

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Bret Harte Union High School's principal said cuts in her school's budget are a concern.

But what really has Catherine Sargent frustrated is that more cuts are likely, but nobody can predict when — or how much — they will be.

"It's hard to plan because we don't know what's going to happen," she said. "We've been conservative and are doing the best we can to keep the programs that serve students."

At today's Bret Harte Union High School District meeting, the district board is scheduled to vote on the district's $7.5 million budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

District Superintendent Joseph Wilimek called the proposed budget "extremely conservative."

Although the proposed budget would not call for cutting salaries or laying off teachers or staff, Wilimek said other needs — like supply purchases, transportation and renovation projects — were cut across the board.

"This is probably the tightest budget I've ever written," Wilimek said.

"I fully expect to have another round of mid-year cuts."

The cuts are a product of this year's estimated $38 billion state budget shortfall. School districts throughout California started tightening their spending plans midway through the school year, bracing for a decrease in state funding.

In the case of Bret Harte Union High School District's budget, the district started with an $8 million budget. Gloria Carrillo, the district's director of business services, estimates that the district will spend only about $7.4 million by the end of this month.

Deferred payments

Feeding the district's budget woes, Carrillo said, the state has deferred three months of "revenue limit" payments to school districts until July.

The monthly revenue limit payments serve as school districts' main sources of income, Carrillo said. For the Bret Harte district, this means $90,000 a month.


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