Written by Maureen Magee |Signon Dan Diego.Com/San Diego Union Tribune| http://bit.ly/td9EQ9
7:40 p.m., Dec. 2, 2011 :: San Diego city schools chief Bill Kowba issued a sobering letter to some 14,000 employees Friday, warning about grim finances and layoff notices set to land in mailboxes before the holidays under the threat of midyear cuts.
From: Smolens, Michael
Teachers are safe from midyear job cuts under state law that requires any potential layoffs to be signaled with March pink slips. Cafeteria workers, clerks, janitors and other workers may be terminated after a 45-day warning.
Superintendent Bill Kowba
About 55 nonteaching jobs are up for elimination by Feb. 2. However, a wave of layoff notices would be dispatched throughout the district to accommodate the seniority-based bumping process that gives seasoned employees the ability to take a position held by less-experienced colleague.
The San Diego Unified School District’s budget woes have been well-publicized for months and are unlikely to come as a surprise to employees. Even so, Kowba sought to provide all personnel with a “heads up” on the situation in Friday’s memo.
The district is bracing for midyear cuts of $26 million to $30 million to it’s $1.057 billion operating budget, based on disappointing financial projections from the state, setting the stage for a potentially devastating budget scenario for the 2012-13 school year. In October, Kowba made the alarming announcement that midyear cuts could push the district into insolvency and potentially force a state takeover of local campuses.
Making it through this school year would require the district to drain $22 million from a reserve account, spend $4.5 million in real estate proceeds, and impose a hiring freeze to save $1.5 million, Kowba said. Another $1.7 million to plug the shortfall would come from eliminating about 55 nonteaching jobs.
Kowba acknowledges the poor timing in his memo: “Unfortunately, the timing of the midyear cuts requires that the Human Resources Department begin the notice preparation process before the winter break.”
Next year, many more employees could lose jobs, Kowba said in the memo. The superintendent will release preliminary cost-cutting measures on Tuesday as the school board lays the ground work for another grim budget.
“... it is extremely difficult to achieve budget adjustments of this magnitude without drastic staffing reductions,” Kowba said in the letter. “Consequently, this list of budget solutions will include recommendations for significant layoffs touching all stakeholder groups, programs, and organizations in the district.”
Like other districts up and down the state, San Diego Unified has been bracing for midyear budget cuts ever since California’s independent legislative analyst issued dire revenue projections in November. A second and pivotal fiscal forecast is set to be released on Dec. 15 by the state Department of Finance.
The state balanced its current budget under the assumption that revenues would grow by $4 billion. Automatic cuts to state programs will start if revenues fall more than $1 billon short of that mark.
The report released last month from the state’s legislative analyst predicted revenues would come in $3.7 billion short, enough to trigger $1.35 billion in cuts to schools.
Gov. Jerry Brown must rely on the most favorable of the two state fiscal reports to authorize the triggers. But districts must begin balancing next year’s budget under the assumption that midyear are a given.