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San Diego Unified suffers from a lack of coordination between its computerized budget and human resources systems, one of several pitfalls detailed in a report by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a Bakersfield-based advisory group that was contracted at a $55,000 cost to scrutinize financial operations in the school district.

Its findings could prove important as the school district stares down another budget crisis, estimated to cost the system roughly $40 million within this school year.

The report detailed several shortcomings in budgeting:

  • Teachers are billed to schools based on their average salary, not their actual salary. Ideally, this would prevent schools from stocking up on inexperienced teachers to save money, prompting them to make their staffing decisions based on who is the best fit for the school. But it means that budgets almost never match records of how many employees are in schools. The report dubbed it “an antiquated process.”
  • There are only two employees who are trained to prepare “a number of reports,” making many departments reliant on their work. The report suggested that this could be a weakness because strong organizations separate duties and cross-train employees for key jobs. If those two budget gurus are gone, it’s hard to get things done in the school district.
  • It takes a lot of number-crunching, done by hand, to make usable financial reports in San Diego Unified. That undercuts the accuracy of the data and makes the information less timely because of the hours needed to transfer and re-crunch the information. The report said, “Using Excel spreadsheets to track almost a billion dollars in salaries and benefits places the district at great risk and calls into question the integrity of the data uploaded into the budget.”
  • It’s even hard to figure out how many vacancies there are in each job classification in San Diego Unified because there is no individual “position control number” in its computerized human resources system. Instead, groups of employees in the same school doing the same kind of job have the same number.

Check out the full report here.

EMILY ALPERT

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