San Diego Unified Budget Primer
The total operating budget for San Diego Unified in 2017-2018 is $1.3B. This does not include construction bonds from Props S and Z. The budget includes $1.15B from the state and $94M from the federal government and $60M from local funds and transfers. Some of the funds are restricted (such as Title I for supplemental programs for students in poverty). The state’s new Local Control Funding Formula gives extra funds to the district to assist English Language Learners, students on free lunch program and foster youth
The main part of the budget is the Unrestricted General Fund. This is the largest fund, which must be used to meet the academic needs of all of San Diego Unified’s students. The amount of the General Fund Unrestricted in 2017-2018 is $1.07B.
The bulk of our funds are determined by the legislature and the Governor. The only locally approved funds are the Proposition S and Z bond funds, which can only be used for construction and technology. California ranks 46th among all of the states in education funding based on per pupil funding, even though the California Constitution calls for California to spend the average of the top ten states. Proposition 98 calls for 40 percent of the state budget to be spent on K-14 education. (This was meant to be a floor, but has become a ceiling. Furthermore, under certain circumstances the Prop 98 minimum is suspended.) Currently, San Diego Unified is funded by the state with a base fund per pupil ranging from $7,301 to $8,938, depending on grade level.
San Diego Unified has balanced its budget every year, but not without sacrifice. How do we start the budget process with a shortfall? If the cost of status quo services goes up more than the increase in funds from the state we have a shortfall. For example, to maintain the status quo next year (the same programs and staff levels) will require a state increase of $59M due to increases in pensions costs mandated by the state, automatic longevity raises for staff, health care increases and other increases or loss of funds. We must make up this shortfall just to continue with our current programs and staff even without salary increases. When staff must be reduced we are required to issue layoff notices based on seniority based on Ed Code/Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is partially mitigated by retirements and resignations at the end of the year, but layoff notices must be issued by March 15 per state law.
Necessary increase by state to continue current programs and staff (status quo) in 2018-2019:
The Adequacy Shortfall is much higher than the status quo shortfall. Adequacy Funding means that we have a reasonable amount of teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses and support staff to do what educators and the general public expect for our students. In 2014-2015 San Diego Unified calculated that shortfall to be $350M. While funding was increased during the following years, mandated costs (such as pensions) have absorbed some of that increase. We still estimate the Adequacy Shortfall to be about $3,500 per pupil.
Necessary increase by state for San Diego Unified to provide all needed services: $350M.
How are budget decisions made? Priorities are determined as the Vision 2020 Local Control Accountability Plan is developed with input from stakeholders. Based on these priorities district staff must submit preliminary budget plans on December 15 (before the Governor proposes his budget) and on March 15 (before the legislature approves a budget). During these months district leadership must make final budget adjustments based upon priorities previously determined and the amount of funds from the state.
We must live within our means. For us to maintain our current programs we need an increase of $59M from the state for next year. We will always adjust to circumstances and do the best we can with the resources that we are provided. At the same time we will urge our Governor and legislature to reprioritize public education towards Adequate Funding. We do not need to be one of the highest funded states for San Diego to meet its mission. Governor Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula has taken a big step towards better academics through local control. But local control is not enough. The big step for the next administration is Adequate Funding, with which we can achieve our Vision 2020 mission of a quality school in every neighborhood and finally erase the achievement gap. We are all responsible for accomplishing this as citizens, taxpayers and voters.