San Diego Unified School District superintendent Bill Kowba stood in the commons of Chesterton Elementary School on April 22 to "set the record straight." Kowba spoke to the allegations that the district was sitting on $66 million in reserves while it sent nearly 1300 layoff notices to school employees.
The San Diego Education Association criticized the district for what it deemed "unreliable and untrustworthy" financial data. The teacher's union was referring to a line in the budget report entitled "Unextended balances/Set aside" that amounts to $57.3 million.
"Sitting atop reserve funds that are literally quadruple the amount required by law and then issuing more than 1300 layoffs is just flat out reckless," read an article posted on the San Diego Education Association's website on April 18.
Standing among four charts during the mid-afternoon press conference, Kowba rejected those claims. He explained that the $66 million of one-time revenues, including money from the Federal Jobs Bill, and one-time ADA funds will be used in conjunction with the $115 million in reductions to balance the $163 estimated deficit for fiscal year 2012. The remaining $9 million will go into a reserve fund for "unanticipated risks."
The superintendent said the claims "gave false hope" to the 1300 district employees that received layoff notices last month.
"It is a misunderstanding of our financial statement," said Kowba. "We cannot spend any of this money twice. Any use of these dollars to rescind layoff notices [and] we would have to go back dollar for dollar to find cuts in the budget. There is no unused money. We are working to do the best we can to solve a terrible situation."
School board trustee Scott Barnett had some harsher words for the teacher's union and their claims about "rainy day" funds. "I'm extremely saddened and disappointed that the leadership at the teacher's union would deliberately give false hope to hundreds of teachers to lead them to believe that there is a pot of money that can save their jobs. This is not only misleading, it is cruel."
The San Diego Education Association is organizing a rally, the "66 Million Reasons To Rescind Rally," at the district's education center in University Heights on May 10 at 4:15 p.m.