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$116M In The Red, San Diego Unified Looks To Close Its Budget Gap

The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified Scho...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified School District is shown in this photo, March 24, 2016.

Layoffs are a last resort. That's the message from San Diego Unified School District officials as they look to cut more than $116 million from their budget.

Early financial projections show the district in the red through the next two fiscal years.

Much of the shortfall is attributed to rising pension costs, but also to falling enrollment, which staff says could worsen under the Trump administration. A presentation prepared for the school board notes deportation, or fear of deportation, could affect immigrant families in the district.

The outlook could change as the state budget crystallizes — the governor's first pass is expected next month and the legislature won't finalize it until summer.

In statement, the district says this school year will not be impacted.

"San Diego Unified’s 2016-17 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 2017-18 budget, and a lot depends on what happens in Sacramento. 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. San Diego Unified expects to have final budget decisions for the 2017-18 school year in June of next year."

The district must have a contingency plan in place by March.

The Board of Education will discuss cutting $65 million from the central office and non-essential operations, as well as $52 million from schools. Specific cuts aren't yet detailed.

Patricia Koch, interim chief financial officer for San Diego Unified, told the San Diego Union-Tribune the district would close vacant positions and forgo replacements for outgoing staff to avoid layoffs.

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