With the state of California facing yet another budget deficit this year, up to 131 Hesperia Unified School District employees could be losing their jobs at the end of this school year.


Then-school board vice-president Lee Rogers read a prepared statement at Monday night's meeting. (The board reorganized later that night, with board member Anthony Riley replacing her as vice-president.)


"At this time, the governing board recognizes that our district has to reduce expenditures by a minimum of $8 million in order to balance the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget," she began.


California's deficit may reach $32 billion next year, HUSD staff warned, and that means more cuts in education funding, the largest expense for the state of California. (More than 70 percent of the HUSD's $160 million budget comes from state revenues.)


"Last time I talked to the staff, it was a $6.2 million [HUSD] deficit," said board member Hardy Black. (Black was chosen as the new board president later in the meeting.) "I hesitate to see what it'll be next week."


"Sooner or later, after 20 years of this kind of irresponsible [state] budgeting, reality comes calling," said board member Robert Kirk.


There aren't a lot of places where the district can cut. More than 80 percent of the district's unrestricted funds (as opposed to funds that can only be used for construction, for instance) go to salary and benefits. As a result, the district's negotiations with the unions who represent nearly all of its employees -- the Hesperia Teachers Association and California School Employees Association local 684 -- will be conducted in an atmosphere of cost cutting.


Everything is on the table in the negotiations with the unions, including "freezing or reducing salaries and stipends; eliminating overtime, hourly and extra duty assignments; salary rollbacks; work furlough days; reducing employee work years and/or hours; adjusting staffing levels; reducing/adjusting health benefits; class splitting, period subbing, shift differential, or other agreed upon compensation methods."


Should the district not be able to work something out with the unions by Feb. 8, the board warned, there will be up to 131 layoffs next year, based on the proportion of each employee group in the HUSD, the Victor Valley's largest single employer. Without a deal, approximately 87 teachers, 35 non-teacher staff and 9 management employees will be laid off.


"Difficult choices are ahead of us," said board member Chris Bentley. "We can't just hope it'll get better."


The next regular meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.