Schools eye rainy day funds to cover budget cuts

San Francisco’s cash-strapped schools, which stand to suffer a financial blow at the hands of state funding cuts, could find relief in millions of dollars socked away in The City’s rainy day account.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano brought the funding source to light at a hearing of the Board of Supervisors City and School District Committee on Thursday.

The Controller’s Office said that the school district could receive $30 million of the estimated $122 million in the rainy day reserve.

“This is really a Hail Mary in a way,” Ammiano said.

San Francisco Unified School District faces a $40 million cut in funding under the current proposed state budget.

“We absolutely need those rainy day funds now,” school board member Eric Mar said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said that he “would be surprised if we do not rally around” use of rainy day funding to help out the school district.

The Controller’s Office plans on issuing a report with recommendations on the use of the reserve following the release of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May revision of the proposed state budget, when impacts would be better known.

The money has been set aside after a measure was approved by voters in 2003, which was put on the ballot by Ammiano.

The charter amendment requires that when city revenues exceed 5 percent, 50 percent of the excess is put into the rainy day reserve. Another 25 percent goes to capital expenditures and another 25 percent to other city purposes.

Built into this charter amendment is a provision that allows 25 percent of the money in the reserve to be given to the San Francisco Unified School District when it suffers financially and faces layoffs. The City cannot access money in the rainy day reserve unless its revenue growth is less than 5 percent.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors have the authority to provide the school district with this money if its per pupil state funding is reduced and if it faces “significant number of layoffs.”

<p>jsabatini@examiner.com

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