Facing the prospect of a $7 million shortfall in the next school year, the Hesperia Unified School District is contemplating a wide variety of cuts, including laying off almost four dozen teachers.

"The rumors coming out of Sacramento are very discouraging, but they're just that right now," Assistant Superintendent for Business Services David McLaughlin told the school board at a budget workshop Thursday night. "Even if we make it through this year ... the coming years are worse."

Gov. Jerry Brown has said he does not intend to further cut public school funding in next year's state budget, after years of deep cuts. But his plan is contingent on voters approving extensions of existing taxes this summer. If they don't -- or the state legislature doesn't vote to even put the issue on the ballot -- public school districts will be facing further cuts. In the HUSD, the Victor Valley's largest school district and its single largest employer, officials expect to face a $7 million shortfall.

The board will have to approve a slate of cuts they're willing to approve to send to the county superintendent of schools at their March 7 meeting.

Then comes March 15, the state-mandated deadline for telling any teachers that their services will not be required in the coming school year. School districts traditionally inform any teacher they might need to cut later on that they are at least tentatively pink-slipped.

Thursday night, McLaughlin and Superintendent Mark McKinney presented the board with a list of possible cuts for them to consider. The list includes programs being restructured, layoffs, pay freezes, pay cuts, additional furlough days and more.

"None of these things we want to do," said McKinney.

Items the board will consider on March 7 include:

Reducing staff at the district office, for a savings of $350,000
Charging bus fees, for a savings of $200,000
Pushing back the minimum qualifying distance for 7th through 12th graders to ride the bus by half a mile, for a savings of $250,000
Deferring maintenance on school facilities, for a savings of $250,000
Restructuring the district's alternative education services, for a savings of $981,794
Closing Sunset Point, the district's night school program, for a savings of $338,809
Restructuring and reducing the district's police force, for a savings of $201,500
A 1 percent cut in teacher pay, for a savings of $504,538

A total of 46 teachers could be laid off, including 17 due to changes in enrollment levels, 15 teachers due to administrative reductions, four teachers from cutting back on school counselors, three teachers from cutting back on elementary school music programs, and three teachers from alternative education services. Eight other teachers, who were on short-term contracts, would also be let go.

"'Do I cut off my right arm or my left arm' is the choice that's given to me," said board president Chris Bentley.

"March 15 is right around the corner," said board member Eric Swanson. "I don't like [giving a pink slip to] anyone, but if we don't make our minimum [cuts], we'll be way in trouble."

"Any [layoff] you pull off" the list "this year, you can put on next year," said McLaughlin.

District officials have a gloomy outlook about the future beyond this school year: There could be possible school closures and boundary changes in the 2012-2013 school year, according to McKinney.

"You pray for peace and prepare for war," said Bentley.

The next regular meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on March 7 at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.