A Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The Sweetwater Union High School District made a $30 million oopsie.

That’s how much the district miscalculated its budget for the current school year – and now it must come up with a plan to make significant cuts in just the next few weeks, Will Huntsberry reports.

Usually when school districts are staring down major cuts, they’re for the following school year. That’s what makes Sweetwater’s situation so unusual: Officials will have to make cuts for the school year that’s in progress now.

So what happened?

“The single biggest mistake came in projected salaries for certificated staff, which includes teachers, for the 2017-18 school year,” Huntsberry writes. “The district spent $182 million – roughly $9 million more than it previously budgeted – for certificated staff. The district also overspent by roughly $7 million on classified salaries and employee benefits combined. District employees previously negotiated a 3.75 percent raise in 2017 that significantly increased salary costs during the last school year.

The Partners by the Bay Get a Bit of Their Bounty

From Scott Lewis: The Union-Tribune reported that city of San Diego leaders have decided to move forward with a more than $5 million payment to Fifth Avenue Landing LLC, the partners who have the lease on land behind the Convention Center considered crucial to expansion of the facility.

It is part of a $33 million deal the city and the port agreed to with the partners to give control of the land to the city and port should the tax hike to expand the Convention Center actually win approval from voters. When that ballot measure failed to make the November ballot, it was unclear whether this deal – and the $5 million – was going to go forward.

The partners, in exchange for the money, agreed not to develop a hotel on the land. But that was just until the results of the November election were clear. If the Convention Center plan won, they’d get all the money. If it lost, they’d be left with just the deposit and they could build their hotel. ,

With no November election though, the deal will have to be altered to accommodate a new election. Negotiations are ongoing. This is part of the reason, however, that the mayor will push for a special election this spring. The partners just won’t wait much longer. Or maybe they will, but for a price.

In August, I advised the city to give up its dream of a waterfront expansion of the Convention Center if it is not willing to pay the $5 million now. Not paying but somehow still holding out hope for the land would ensnare the city in another fight with even less leverage than before.

It appears city leaders agreed, they just decided to keep up the dream of a waterfront expansion. Now, we’ll have to see if the deal gets richer for the partners in exchange for waiting a little longer.

Lead in Water a Statewide Problem

From Ry Rivard: A water testing law passed in response to the discovery of lead at several San Diego schools is turning up polluted water at schools across the state.

EdSource, a website that focuses on state education issues, looked at recent lead test results available so far from 3,700 of the state’s 11,000 schools. More than a fifth of schools have elevated levels of lead in their water.

Lead is unsafe at any level and it is especially damaging to children’s brains.

So far, 150 schools have found leaded water that exceeds the “action level” set for drinking water systems by the federal government, according to EdSource. Another 750 schools, have levels of lead that would not be allowed in bottled water.

Most, if not all of the lead, is probably coming from deteriorating plumbing and fixtures at the schools themselves, meaning problems may be with one tap, not every drop of water used in a building.

EdSource also identified weaknesses in the new law: Schools don’t have to sample water from all of their faucets and they only have to make repairs if more than 15 parts of lead are found per billion parts water. That’s the federal standard set for large drinking water systems, which is more lenient than the five parts per billion federal standard for bottled water.

The law’s author, San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, acknowledged those weaknesses and said they were the product of necessary legislative compromises. Only a handful of other states require schools to test for lead at all.

San Diego Unified School District has self-imposed a stricter limit on lead that the state law requires.

Big Development Gets Supes’ OK

From Ry Rivard: Despite years of drama and recent courtroom contretemps, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a new 2,100-unit housing development near San Marcos.

The development, known as Newland Sierra, is pitched as one way to help fix the region’s housing crisis with more suburban homes.

While its opponents say the project would trounce on parts of San Diego’s backcountry, the project’s backers note it’s right along Interstate 15, an artery for commuters already going from coastal businesses to homes way out in the Inland Empire.

Developers have been eying that site for years. Nine years ago, the board rejected a similar development.

But, the fight to actually start construction and move people into new homes is far, far from over. Well-funded and determined opposition, which includes nearly every environmental group in the county, as well as a nearby luxury resort owned by one of the world’s richest families, will continue to hammer in court and potentially at the ballot box to modify, stall or kill the project.

The project’s immediate hurdles will likely involve a lawsuit over how it plans to offset greenhouse gases the new development will cause. It could also face challenges because of where it sits, near critical habitat that environmentalists want to preserve.

After a long and contentious hearing, the supervisors approved the project in 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Dianne Jacob absent, according to KPBS.

Brown Signs Law Strengthening Juvenile DNA Collection Rules

State laws already limit when police can collect DNA from juveniles.

But as Kelly Davis reported for VOSD last year, SDPD found a loophole that let them collect DNA samples from kids without a parent or attorney signing off.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a bill written by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez closing the loophole. Police must get a court order or parental permission any time it collects DNA from kids.

Congressional Races Bring the Fire

The New York Times last week released a poll in the congressional race between Democrat Mike Levin and Republican Diane Harkey to replace Rep. Darrell Issa in California’s 49th District, which straddles southern Orange County and the northern San Diego County. It’s one of a few dozen congressional polls the Times has done recently, and it showed Levin with a comfortable 10 point lead.

A consultant for Harkey lashed out against the poll to Breitbart, calling it “skewed” and “meaningless.” The consultant told Breitbart their internal polls show Harkey losing by just two points, a statistical dead heat, though Breitbart did not publish the full poll.

Meanwhile … Some explosive comments made by Rep. Duncan Hunter at a campaign event Monday night are still making waves.

Hunter said at an event in Ramona that “radical Muslims are trying to infiltrate the U.S. government” — citing having “more Islamists run for office this year at the federal level than ever before,” Politico reported.

Hunter also noted his opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar’s grandfather helped lead a terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Campa-Najjar’s spokesman responded by alluding to Hunter’s earlier comments blaming his wife for the campaign finance charges they both face: “Ammar is not responsible for his family’s actions, just as Hunter’s wife is not responsible for his actions,” said Nick Singer. California Democratic Party Chairman Eric C. Bauman waded in with a fiery statement Wednesday: “Duncan Hunter is by far one of the sleaziest, most corrupt members of Congress, and his comments last night show there is no sewer he won’t descend into to win his reelection.”

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby.

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