San Diego

Teacher Layoffs Possible Following Raises in San Diego Unified School District

School trustees recently approved a 4 percent employee pay hike taking effect this school year

The San Diego Unified School District is facing a $117 million budget shortfall for the 2017-2018 school year, just a month after approving across-the-board pay raises for all teachers and most staff.

School officials are considering everything from reducing health care benefits to revamping district headquarters organization to plug the $117 million hole in their $1.3 billion budget.

The issue was first reported by our media partner, Voice of San Diego. 

"What you're seeing is a structural deficit," said Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis. "They are set-up to spend more money than they are set-up to collect."

School trustees recently approved a 4 percent employee pay hike taking effect this school year. It added $30 million to the budget gap for the 2017-2018 school year, and will cost at least $50 million more in 2018-2019, according to VOSD's Ashly McGlone.

San Diego Unified school officials declined an on-camera interview with NBC 7 Monday.

A district spokeswoman sent the following statement:

"San Diego Unified's 2016-2017 budget is balanced and all school staff and operations are fully funded through the end of the school year. Any financial discussions now are focused on the 2017-2018 budget, and a lot depends on what happens in Sacramento."

It's a dilemma school districts commonly find themselves facing: the district has to send out layoff notices by March 15 but they aren't privy to the state's budget until June.

"The district's budget relies heavily on the budget passed by the state - typically in June. And given that the Governor will not publicly present his budget until next month, all district staff is doing at this time is preparing for contingencies," said Shari Winet, a district spokeswoman. "San Diego Unified expects to have final budget decisions for the 2017-18 school year in June of next year."

Still, county education officials warn that cuts are on the way.

Assistant Superintendent San Diego County Office of Education Lora Duzyk said San Diego Unified will eventually have to face their deficit spending.

Critics of the decision to give staff a four percent pay raise also warned last month that the next wave of pain was coming. However, district staff said the pay hike was needed to ensure San Diego Unified retains the best and brightest teachers and support staff.

One way the district will not be able to bridge the funding deficit is by dipping into their reserves. The "rainy day" funds are already at a bare minimum to meet state mandates.

"They've depleted their reserves, so they've spent reserves over the last few years, even as things have been going well, in order to keep the same level of teacher ratios and services they had before," said Lewis.

Parents told NBC 7 Monday that what they fear most are decisions that impact the teacher-to-student ratio at their children's schools.

"I think it’s important to maintain a decent teacher-to-student ratio and definitely I’m not in favor of more cuts," said Paul Vincent, a parent of three students at Washington Elementary. "I think they should utilize the teachers they have better."

The board is scheduled to hear a report on the budget and discuss solutions to the shortfall, including possible buyouts and layoffs, at its Tuesday meeting.

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