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Budget guru Phil Stover, interim chief special projects officer in San Diego Unified is still 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 through the end of today. Where necessary, I’ve included some added explanation of my own in italics to help smooth out any eduspeak. Enjoy! — EMILY ALPERT

QUESTION from parent SALLY SMITH: Who is monitoring the school budgets? Is overtime being controlled this year? How are positions being controlled such as school site operations specialists that are very expensive when a lower cost position could provide the services? Is this issue being addressed by (Interim Superintendent) Bill Kowba?

ANSWER from PHIL STOVER: Monitoring the school site budgets is currently a mixed responsibility. Principals are the frontline managers responsible to manage their funds well and in accordance with law and district policy. School improvement officers also oversee expenditures. (SIOs oversee principals, kind of like what other school districts call assistant superintendents.)

I would like to see this oversight strengthened next year, depending on what is done with the school improvement office consolidation. The third layer of monitoring is provided by the finance/budget division. Every school has a budget analyst(s) who review funding and expenditures at the site level. Then there are finance/budget managers who review their work.

We have placed significant emphasis on reviewing hourly employee expenditures. These are the line items that are spent for overtime, extra time, regular hourly work and the use of retired employees on an hourly basis. We have swept 30-35 percent of all these funds to fill our budget hole. Last Tuesday night the school board approved a 25 percent reduction in these hours. This was after we had already swept some through BRACE (the recommendations of an internal team that reviewed spending) and the spending freeze. So yes, overtime is being carefully monitored and reduced, if not “controlled.”

The issue of the assignment of positions at the school site is a function of the site council, principal, the allocation formula, the school improvement officers, human resources and finance/budget. The special and federal programs people also get involved to make sure categorical funds (funds that are earmarked for specific purposes, such as helping economically disadvantaged students) are used correctly. I believe there are currently a total of four operations specialist positions assigned in our schools. Don’t hold me to that, but I believe that is correct.

— PHIL STOVER

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