Budget guru Phil Stover, interim chief special projects officer in San Diego Unified is answering your questions about school budget cuts today on our blog. Confused by the cuts or the budget crisis? Have bigger questions about how the budget works? Ask Stover your questions by e-mail at pstover@sandi.net or post them here. We’ll be putting up your questions and answers throughout the day. Where necessary, I’ve included some added explanation of my own in italics to help smooth out any eduspeak. Enjoy!

QUESTION from education reporter EMILY ALPERT: San Diego Unified is still deciding whether it will need to lay off any employees, though it is planning to cut hundreds of positions to make ends meet. How is that possible? How can a school district cut so many jobs without having to actually lay off workers?

ANSWER from PHIL STOVER: SDUSD still has a deficit of approximately $16,000,000 to fill, even after all the board actions of last Tuesday. The district is currently studying how many certificated positions would have to be reduced to fill that hole. (Certificated positions are educators or other people with credentials, such as nurses.)

If we assume that the newest certificated employees would get hit the hardest, we could reasonably use an average salary (with benefits) of $71,000. That would mean approximately 225 certificated positions.

The district has an average annual attrition rate from resignations, retirements, leaves, etc., of about 400 positions. The district is currently studying whether or not the attrition (if those positions were not then filled) would be adequate to cover the financial need. If that were true, no positions would need to be eliminated beyond those that are factored in the attrition.

The big uncertainty is that in these economic times the attrition may be lower than average. The certification of those who attrite is also a very important variable.

That is how the jobs could be cut without actually laying off workers. It remains to be seen if this is possible. Even if the district predicts that attrition may be adequate, it will still most likely have to issue some number of pink slips (layoff warnings that must be sent to educators whose jobs are at risk) by March 15 as a precautionary measure. These pink slips may then be withdrawn as the facts become clearer.


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