Soapbox

Budget disapproval isn’t a shocker. Sac Unified has a terrible track record

Hundreds of teachers and supporters listen as a strike date is announced outside the Sacramento City Unified School District offices in November 2017.
Hundreds of teachers and supporters listen as a strike date is announced outside the Sacramento City Unified School District offices in November 2017. Sacramento Bee file

Concerns about the Sacramento City Unified School District’s administration continue to mount following Superintendent Jorge Aguilar’s recent viewpoints article (“Sacramento schools are committed to equity, but finances are a struggle,” Sept. 3) and the announcement that the Sacramento County of Education has “disapproved” the district’s budget.

 
Opinion

Aguilar does not explain why the district kept the Aug. 22 budget letter secret for nearly two weeks. Aguilar and district Board President Jessie Ryan were silent about how the district went from a “positive certification” to “disapproval” virtually overnight.

We have learned that the disapproval was less about the 2018-19 budget and more about the out-year projections. The county office says the district won’t have enough in its reserves in 2019-20 and 2020-21, but the district’s budget in June stated that reserves would remain nearly double the $11 million required by the state.

In welcoming oversight from the county office and the state, Aguilar seems to admit that his administration lacks the expertise to manage its own finances. The district has a horrible track record of providing accurate budget forecasts. In 2015-16, for example, it predicted a $4 million deficit, but the district ended the year with a $42.6 million surplus. In 2016-17, the district ended the year with a surplus 36 times higher than budgeted.

What is not in dispute is that the district’s revenues have increased dramatically. From 2012-13 to 2017-18, revenues increased by nearly $200 million, or 51 percent and 14 times higher than the percentage increase in pension contributions for staff.

If the district is looking to make quick cuts, it should start with its bloated bureaucracy. Since 2014-15, the number of administrators has grown by 42 percent, a trend continued by Aguilar. If equity really is the new operating principle, it’s time to put students first rather than administrators.

David Fisher, a second-grade teacher, is president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association. He can be contacted at dfisher@saccityta.com.

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