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San Diego Unified Looks Ahead To More — But Smaller — Budget Cuts

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in...

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Above: The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

San Diego Unified must begin identifying nearly $37 million in budget cuts for next school year, and will have to find more than $38 million in additional cuts the following year. That’s according to a budget report presented to trustees Tuesday.

The main culprits: increased spending on pensions and special education, and falling enrollment, which means less revenue.

It’s a problem that’s echoed statewide and could grow worse if a recession hits. But a district spokesman said San Diego Unified is on the right track and nowhere near the kind of trouble that grabbed headlines in the Sweetwater Union High School District earlier this year. There, staff found an unexpected shortfall in the current year’s budget and the County Office of Education has warned the district could be headed toward insolvency.

RELATED: Sweetwater Budget Woes To Cut Into Already Ailing Adult Education Programs

San Diego Unified revenue for this year is tracking above what it estimated in its budget due to grants, and the trustees anticipate a positive budget rating.

Still, the district is not in a position to add back the many jobs it cut in recent years. The report recommends staff continue a hiring and spending freeze, find more efficiencies and make more reductions at the central office, which could include support staff who work with children.

Together, pensions and special education are projected to add about $37 million in costs each of the next two years. Other costs include a budgeted 1 percent raise for certificated staff on Jan. 1 and increased utilities. Meanwhile, the district expects to enroll about 1,500 fewer kids each year.

We’ll get a clearer picture of how the district will trim its budget by March, when the district must notify teachers and other certificated staff of potential layoffs.

With the holiday season comes the start of budget season for San Diego Unified. The board got a look at what’s to come during its meeting Tuesday.

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