Ron Little, San Diego Unified School District’s chief financial officer, submitted his resignation today, a move that leaves the district without a key official as it faces looming budget deficits and uncertain state financing.

Little has taken a job with a community college district in the Bay Area. He came to San Diego in October 2010 from the San Francisco Unified School District. District spokesman Bernie Rhinerson just told me Little is “headed home.”

Little has overseen the district’s finances as it has faced dropping state funding and looming deficits that have forced district trustees to make some tough decisions. And the district’s financial future still looks uncertain, with no sign that state education funding will be boosted any time soon.

Last year, San Diego Unified Superintendent Bill Kowba announced that the district was headed down the road to insolvency. Though the immediate crisis has calmed somewhat, the district is still facing a crippling deficit over the next two years and just issued more than 1,600 layoff notices. There’s still no real long-term plan for how the district will weather the continuing budget storm, which will result in an even bigger deficit in 2014.

Little was immensely helpful when I first started on this beat last year, and sat with me for several hours dissecting and helping me understand the district’s budget. He’s also expressed frustration with the troubles facing the district.

I was in a meeting last year when staff found out that dreaded cuts to the district’s budget would be much smaller than expected. Most of the staff and board members present took the news as a blessing, but I watched Little shake his head in dismay. Interviewed after, he told me he saw the move as simply kicking the state’s financial woes further down the road.

I’ve also watched as Little has been berated at meetings by board members. Though the district’s key financial decisions are made by the board, not by staff, I’ve seen trustees attempt to blame their difficult decisions on finance staff — or at least draw attention away from the impact of their own decisions by focusing on financial minutae controlled by Little and his team.

Little’s last day at the district will be on April 30.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at voiceofsandiego.org currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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