SMMUSD HDQTRS — Sixty-one local public school employees, most of them classroom teachers, will be getting pink slips by March 15, part of a plan approved by the school board to eliminate a total of 92 positions to help cut into a projected $14 million budget deficit.

The damage could have been greater, but some teachers who would have been laid off under that plan were spared this week after 23 older teachers opted to take a one-time, early retirement incentive, and others resigned.

Unless the district’s budget outlook improves and some of the teachers can be re-hired, the cuts mean the district’s elementary music teachers will be eliminated. Fifty-two elementary school teaching positions would be eliminated, along with 22 middle school positions and seven school counseling jobs. Six child development positions also would be reduced.

The finalized cuts were announced at the school board’s meeting on Thursday, though the board had voted to move ahead with the reductions Feb. 18.

Under the cost cutting plan the district is also eliminating four administrative positions and cutting pay for employees across the board. Most employees will be taking five unpaid days of leave this school year and next school year. Top administrators are taking an equivalent pay reduction but keeping their work schedules, said Superintendent Tim Cuneo. Cuneo is also taking a 10 percent reduction in the allowance he receives for his housing, phone and automobile and forgoing his yearly bonus.

Cuts to classified employees haven’t been announced, but Cuneo said as many as 30 support staff positions could be eliminated by this summer. Under state law, teachers who may not be hired for the upcoming school year have to be notified by March 15. Because there’s no requirement to give classified employees such early notice they may be dismissed, he said the district will wait until after the May 25 parcel tax election to decide how many support positions will have to be cut.

The school board is asking voters this spring to approve a $198 per parcel tax to raise about $5.7 million for the district. Two-thirds of voters will have to approve the measure in the mail-in election for it to take effect.

“The budget crisis has forced us to do the unthinkable,” School Board member Oscar de la Torre said on Friday. “Our hope is to respond with a local funding measure that we hope voters will approve in May.”

On Tuesday the school board also approved contracts with its employee bargaining units.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association recently agreed to the deal its leadership had negotiated with the district requiring five unpaid furlough days.

The labor contracts will save the district $2 million per year, district officials said.

nickt@smdp.com