From the Desk of the Superintendent: Learn More About SFUSD's Budget Plan

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By Dr. Vincent Matthews

Every year, SFUSD receives money from the federal, state and county government. Some of the funds are earmarked for specific purposes, such as building maintenance or professional training for teachers, and other funds can be applied to any educational purpose such as classroom teacher salaries and benefits. 

Even before the pandemic the district’s expenditures exceeded its revenue, which created a deficit in the budget. Decreased student enrollment has led to a greater revenue loss, which is deepening SFUSD’s deficit. 

While SFUSD has attempted to soften the impact on schools, including making reductions to central support services in the last few years and exploring additional funding sources, current projections show estimated deficits of at least $125M for the district’s next fiscal year, 2022-23.

Due to the size of projected future deficits and the related concerns about SFUSD’s ability to meet its financial obligations in the upcoming years, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has assigned a fiscal expert to assist SFUSD in identifying budget reductions and to advise the district on its financial issues. The district is also working with the State’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team to conduct a Fiscal Health Risk Analysis with an estimated completion of mid-December. 

The district is preparing to submit a budget balancing plan by Dec.15 as required by the California Department of Education and is using a Zero-Based Budgeting process to prioritize spending. 

SFUSD’s Zero-Based Budgeting process categorizes district spending in three categories: core services, district priorities, and service enhancements. Budget reductions in the balancing plan will have to scale back service enhancements, identify ways to configure the delivery of core and priority services more efficiently, and preserve high leverage and high impact investments.

Funding for schools and districts is based on the numbers and characteristics of students served. For the past three years, school site budgets have not decreased proportional to the decrease in the number of students they serve. While no final plan has been decided upon, the District’s proposed Budget Balancing Plan revises how much the district allocates for each enrolled student and what types of services those students need.

The impacts of these changes would vary site to site, and not all sites will necessarily lose funding, particularly if they have experienced enrollment growth in recent years. School sites can also have even more flexibility when developing site budgets that can be responsive to the unique needs of students within the school community.

The district is committed to meeting the needs of students and to achieving our vision of preparing each and every student to thrive in the 21st century. As California continues to lag behind other populated and wealthy states in per pupil spending, we have not had enough resources to do that as well as we’d like for decades. And this year, we are facing even more difficult trade-offs. Our school communities will have to work together to focus on the services that are our highest priority to deliver the learning opportunities and support that students most need.

Learn more about the budget. Meeting dates and information available: https://www.sfusd.edu/about-sfusd/budget-and-lcap/2021-budget-stabilization-faqs

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