SDUSD's Budget Comes Up Short

Solutions to address the shortfall include selling off property and a hiring freeze

Year-round schools in the San Diego Unified School District may change to a more traditional schedule as early as this fall as a way to save money, district officials said.

That's just one of the solutions leaders in the district suggested Tuesday as a way to avoid laying off more teachers and to close up a projected budget deficit of more than $80 million. 

This news comes at a surprise to many voters who approved Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 -- authorizing a sales and income tax increase. 

"This is a very challenging transition year," said Bill Kowba, SDUSD Superintendent. "There are healthier budget cycles ahead when the Prop 30 revenues collect momentum and sizable [money] does in fact reach this district, but it has simply not arrived in this cycle."

Converting year-round schools to a traditional schedule would cost money in the short term, but save money in the long run, district officials said. Other solutions to address the shortfall include selling off property and a hiring freeze. 

After one of the first budget meetings of this cycle, parents are on the front lines of disappointment.

"It's clear there will probably be layoffs," said parent Brian Catanzaro. "It's clear there will be real estate sold. It's clear that class sizes will not get smaller any time soon."

But the good news is the district decided against drastic layoffs to the tune of 800 plus teachers and staff, which was one option. The board went with the other option: which includes selling off property.

The biggest money makers, in terms of property the district could sell, includes two industrial complexes in Sorrento Mesa that combined could net $50 million immediately. The rest of the shortfall would come through attrition with a hiring freeze.

"We typically have people resign and then we just fill them back in, and we have several hundred people who leave the district every year," Kowba said. "And if we can hold off on hiring those positions we can reduce the staff in a much more orderly way than through layoffs."

Among the concerns: whether these are just short term bandaids.

Also, if the state, which supplies 80 percent of the district's budget, doesn't start delivering more funding as expected, San Diego Unified will have to consider even tougher choices, such as closing schools, Catanzaro suggested.

"The district has almost a third too many schools than it needs and those schools are costing us money," he said. "The reality is everyone is trading off having a closer school for the number of kids in their classroom."

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