Sacramento City Unified school budget rejected again. Immediate cuts recommended

The Sacramento City Unified School District announced on Friday that their budget was rejected by county school officials again.

In a letter to the district, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David Gordon said that while the district will meet its minimum reserve requirements in the next two years, it will fall short by $27 million in the 2021-2022 budget year.

The district will be in a negative fund balance of $14.8 million by June 30, 2022, according to the county’s letter to the district.

While the county noted that the district made considerable progress towards fixing its budget crisis, the cuts are “not enough” to remove the structural deficit, and that the district and its bargaining units — namely the Sacramento City Teachers Association — must make more progress.

“We again encourage the district and its bargaining units to immediately accelerate the negotiations process so that all possible savings to the budget can be realized,” Gordon stated in his letter to the district.

Gordon said that the “openly hostile” relationship between the teachers union and the district prevented the district from making progress.

In recent months, the district and the union were at odds on how to lower the amount spent on health insurance coverage. The teachers union wants to divert the money to the classrooms, and the district says putting health insurance negotiations on the table is one of the remaining ways to save money.

“The latest rejected SCUSD budget simply points to the sustained fiscal mismanagement that plagues the District,” read a statement from the teachers union. “Revenues into the district are at an all-time high, but still the district continues to flounder. Curbing bureaucratic bloat doesn’t require negotiations, but it does require true leaders to put the needs of students ahead of bureaucrats.”

The district is expected to submit a new board-approved budget plan by Oct. 8. In the meantime, the county said it will continue to provide a fiscal advisor to assist the district.

The county office recommended that the district make cuts immediately.

“We consistently told them to always look for other cuts, but there are fewer and fewer of those around,” Gordon said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. “Much of the money that could be reduced is in the collective bargaining agreement.”

Gordon also said that cutting any one-time funding will not help the district, and will not eliminate the structural deficit that the county has been pointing out for years. Gordon added that it’s impossible to speculate whether or not cuts could include future layoffs.

“Any delay in resolving the structural deficit compromises the future options available to the district to maintain fiscal solvency,” read Gordon’s letter.

The official budget report was submitted to the Sacramento County Office of Education in June, and the district’s contracted budget consultant, Jacquie Canfield, said it will be rejected despite the recent cuts the district made in the spring. Those cuts included approving more than 100 layoffs.

The announcement comes just a week after the district announced it hired a new chief business officer, Rose Ramos. Ramos is joining the district after working as the chief business officer for the Mt. Diablo and River Delta Unified School Districts, among other positions.

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.