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Santelises to present $1.31 billion budget proposal for city schools; layoff proposal expected Friday

Baltimore city schools CEO Sonja Santelises is scheduled to announce this evening a $1.31 billion budget proposal for next year that represents a 2.6 percent decrease from this year's budget and includes $30 million in school spending cuts .

However, Santelises budget presentation to the city school board won't answer a lingering question for families: How many Baltimore teachers will be laid off? The answer will be provided Friday.

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The school district's contracts with various employee unions require Santelises to first inform union presidents of any planned layoffs and to present them with her reasons for the staff reductions. She has scheduled meetings with union leaders through the week and only afterward will school administrators announce the layoffs. That information is scheduled to be made public Friday, officials said.

"I am very concerned. I would like to know a number," said Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. Her meeting with Santelises is scheduled for Thursday, she said.

Jimmy Gittings, president of the principals union, said he also has a meeting Thursday with Santelises. Gittings said he will offer for his administrators to forgo pay raises, take on more of their health care expenses, and accept furlough days to avoid layoffs.

"My major concerns are the anxieties that individuals who I represent are going through," he said.

The school board meeting tonight will bring the first glimpse of a budget that has been a matter of debate and worry among teachers and principals for months. Santelises announced in January that the district faced a $130 million deficit and she initially estimated 1,000 people could be laid off.

She scaled back her projections after state and city legislators pledged $59 million to help shore up next year's budget. Last month, Santelises described the layoffs as "significantly less."

"Progress has been made and that should be celebrated," said Christophe Turk, principal of George Washington Elementary in Pigtown. "We went from an absolute crises to a space where resources have been returned and it's a manageable situation, but we're still not fully funded."

Along with the $30 million in cuts to schools, Santelises wants to cut $10 million from the central office and transfer $21 million from district savings to balance next year's budget, according to a summary of her budget to be presented Tuesday.

The $21 million transfer from savings would be considerably less than $53 million diverted from savings for this year.

"We've been balancing our budget largely on the back of the fund balance and we're trying to move away from that," said Alison Perkins-Cohen, Santelises chief-of-staff.

The budget proposal includes a decrease of about $150 in per-pupil funding for traditional public schools, an amount budgeted at $5,416 for next year.

Charter schools are budgeted to see an increase in per-pupil funding next year of about $150, pushing the total amount to $9,288. Charters receive more money in part because the district's central office doesn't provide them with essential services and they must pay for their own administrators and building expenses.

A budget passed last school year increased per-pupil amounts for traditional schools and decreased amounts for charters by more than $200.

The full budget proposed for next year is expected to be released Friday. The school board is scheduled to vote on it May 23.

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Layoff notifications are scheduled to be sent to affected teachers and administrators during the first week of June.

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