San Diego Unified schools Superintendent Cindy Marten spoke after Khizr Khan
San Diego Unified schools Superintendent Cindy Marten. File photo by Ken Stone

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday evening declared that the district is in “positive” fiscal health for the first time in eight years, though staff will begin planning for $47 million in cuts for the coming school year.

In its unanimous vote, the board instructed school finance staff to utilize a tiered system when considering budget cuts for the 2018-19 academic year.

Cuts will be made first to central administrative functions, including in the superintendent’s office, then to district-wide services and finally at the individual school level, in accordance with the recommendations made by district finance staff in the year’s first interim financial report.

“While we expect cuts to the central office to be necessary, our priority is to have no direct budget cuts to school sites,” the district’s chief business officer, Greg Ottinger, said.

In the report presented Tuesday, school districts are required to inform the San Diego County Office of Education on whether they expect to be able to pay their bills in the current and two following fiscal years.

If so, they issue a positive declaration. If it’s questionable, the declaration is “qualified,” and if they can’t, it’s “negative.”

San Diego Unified has been issuing qualified reports in recent years.

Several members of the public expressed concerns about the projected cuts.

“Those of us on the board are totally opposed to these cuts,” District A representative John Lee Evans said. However, we can’t pull money out of our pockets.

The budget this year is $1.3 billion. Next year’s budget would need to increase $59 million to maintain the status quo of services, while “full and adequate funding” would require $291 million on top of that, Ottinger said.

The cuts will need to be identified before the second interim report is issued in March.

For the following year, $66.9 million in cuts will be needed, the report said.

The board also reorganized for the coming year.

District B member Kevin Beiser was elected president. He was previously the board’s vice president.

District E’s Sharon Whitehurst-Payne was elected vice president.

–City News Service