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At the beginning of last year, the San Diego Unified School District cut $53 million from their budget. Six months later, the board members approved an additional $33 million in cuts. So, when the State of California announced they were going to reduce the district’s funding by an additional $63.1 million this coming July, the district’s board members weren’t happy.

However, when board members received a February 17 memo from the district’s Financial Operation Division stating they had identified over $45 million in savings and created nearly $6 million in revenues, things weren’t looking so grim.

Yet, during a special budget workshop on Sunday, February 22, at school-district headquarters, board members and the public were handed a different financial forecast with entirely different numbers. Instead of an estimated $77.3 million deficit for the next fiscal year, an increased shortfall of $26 million was added in, amounting to a $103.9 million overall deficit.

At the Sunday meeting, SD Unified superintendent Terry Grier said the extra $26 million was from deductions that his financial officers had already intended to cut from the budget. Grier had restored the amount because he felt they required approval from school board members.

School board members were troubled about the changes.

“We’re all moving very fast, and I recognize that,” said school board vice president Richard Barrera. “It’s very difficult to have something put in front of us and then five days later have a completely different number put in front of us.”

San Diego Unified chief financial officer James Masias responded. “As a CFO, I have to take the hit for that. I apologize for that. The numbers are fluid and moving every day.”

Board member Katherine Nakamura had harsher words. “While I appreciate your honesty in putting the numbers back into this where we can actually see where the flow of dollars is actually going, and while I appreciate you protecting your staff, somebody on your staff made a decision that they really should not have made. I’m not trying to tell you how to discipline your staff, but somebody ought to be taken to the woodshed for not being clear about numbers.”

For more on San Diego Unified’s budget woes, visit their website at sandi.net.

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