When San Diego Unified officials earlier this month announced they’d need to cut at least $116.6 million in spending to balance next year’s budget, staff identified three broad areas where the cuts would come from.

Some $44 million would come from the district office budget, $52 million would come from school sites and $21 million would come from centralized support services, which includes things like special and early education and transportation, said the district’s new CFO Patricia Koch. Koch emphasized that cuts would be rolled back if at all possible.

There’s only one problem. The district can’t tell us what those three areas cost the district right now. If the central office can cut $44 million, what is that $44 million from?

Voice of San Diego has repeatedly asked district officials what those three budget areas currently cost the district, or what they are each projected to cost next year.

Do the announced cuts in those areas amount to a small fraction of each budget area, or half of that budget or more? That would make a big difference and would signal whether the cuts are reasonably small or maybe unreasonably ambitious.

District officials have rebuffed multiple requests for the numbers, with both Koch and district spokeswoman Shari Winet saying it would be “premature” to provide the numbers before the governor’s state budget is released while staff is still working to identify specific cuts.

Now, it seems officials may not even know the amounts.

“We’re not declining to release numbers,” Winet said in an email. “In an effort to close the deficit, we simply began identifying some potential budget solutions. We know they’re there, because we’ve been going through that process. … We will know more once the state budget has been received.”

Regularly kept district budget documents do not single out “central office” costs, nor do they call out costs for “centralized support services” or costs for “schools,” which are the three broad areas targeted for cuts. Instead, those costs are indistinguishable and peppered throughout the budget.

Without those starting figures from the district, it is impossible to know the gravity of the cuts planned and recently greenlit by the board.

Winet suggested looking at this year’s total budget and comparing it to the cuts needed. The district is expected to spend nearly $1.4 billion out of its general fund this year, so cuts of $116.6 million would exceed 8 percent.

That’s all the context the public gets for now.

Ashly is a freelance investigative reporter. She formerly worked as a staff reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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