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Sac City Unified Poised To Have New Budget, But Health Benefits And Labor Issues Remain

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

The Sacramento City Unified School District has been ordered to deliver a new budget that accounts for a $24 million deficit by October 8.

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Updated Wednesday at noon

Next Thursday, the Sacramento City Unified School District board is scheduled to approve a new budget for the next school year, but none of the parties involved are celebrating.

The district's budget proposal is $547.5 million for the coming year, but everyone is focused on the budget forecast for two years from now. If the district does not have enough money to pay its bills in future years, it faces state takeover.

SCUSD says the forecast shows it will be in the red in two years.

"We're currently looking at a $26 million structural budget deficit. That's the amount that we need to cut over the next couple of years,” said Alex Barrios, district spokesman.

But the Sacramento City Teachers Association says the district numbers can’t be trusted since the district has made several errors in its calculations.

"They were projecting a negative ending funding balance of over $54 million two years out. Now, six months later in June, they're projecting a positive ending balance two years out of almost $15 million," said David Fisher, head of the union.

Fisher says the district has another $8 million in a health care benefits fund, but the district and the Sacramento County Office of Education say touching that money is a bad idea. The county has fiscal oversight over SCUSD and says it already has $760 million in unfunded health care benefits.

The district is required by law to approve a budget and submit it to the Sacramento County Office of Education. The SCOE has twice disapproved the district budget.

County Superintendent Dave Gordon says it would be fiscally irresponsible to use the money. He added that he's sent 15 letters to the district asking them to set aside more money for healthcare benefits in the past several years.

"A well-run district would have set aside a corpus of funding to defray the cost of the premiums for retirees,” Gordon said. "Sac City has never done that."

The teacher's current contract expires at the end of the month. The union and the district have met only once, at the request of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Since then, the district and the union have traded public barbs accusing the other of refusing to meet. The district has sent the union a list of dates, but the union refuses to meet until a list of collective bargaining complaints are addressed.

The SCUSD board is expected to pass the budget next Thursday. Gordon says the savings that have been identified so far are a good first step, but the district is not on healthy financial footing, yet.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated when the budget vote would be. The vote is next Thursday, June 20.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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