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Stimulus funds help district to bridge gap
Budget cuts had put 200 school jobs at risk
By Bruce Lieberman
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
June 21, 2009
VISTA — Federal stimulus money saved Vista Unified School District this past week from a late round of punishing budget cuts.
The jobs of about 200 people were on the line at the district, which enrolls about 23,000 students and employs more than 2,000 teachers and other non-teaching workers.
As recently as June 12, administrators were bracing for the worst because of a grim budget update Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in late May. The governor projected that public school districts statewide would have to cut $3.6 billion between now and the end of 2009-10.
For Vista Unified, that meant cutting $5 million before the end of the current fiscal year, June 30, and another $9.7 million for 2009-10.
This was on top of $11.8 million the district cut from its 2009-10 budget earlier this spring.
While a district committee combed the budget for more dollars and administrators waited for the state to release more federal stimulus money, a plan was developed to lay off about 200 employees.
Then on June 12, the district learned it would have access to nearly $6 million in additional federal stimulus money. At Thursday's board meeting, employees expressed relief that they'd get a reprieve at least for another year.
“You've made a lot of people very happy,” said Bill Faust, head of the district's union for 1,100 employees who do not have teaching credentials.
It's clear, however, that the federal stimulus money will not be around in 2010-11, and the district will face another round of deep cuts if the economy doesn't rebound, said Donna Caperton, Vista Unified's chief business officer...