SDUHSD finishes school year with $4 million financial surplus

The San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) ended the 2015-16 school year with its fourth consecutive surplus, Interim Superintendent Eric Dill reported at the Sept. 15 board meeting. The district went from a projected $2.4 million deficit in the spring to a $4 million surplus with fall’s unaudited actuals.

“This continues our pattern of showing deficits throughout the year and then closing the gap by the end of the year,” Dill said. “I said twice in this very room that was our job to do, we have a gap and we needed to shrink it.”

Dill credited Chief Financial Officer Delores Perley and her staff for watching how the money comes in and how the district spends it — he said the unaudited actuals are like her “final exam.”

“There is quite a bit of good news,” Perley said, noting that they saw $1.5 million in savings in books and supplies and recognized a savings in special education after a two-year effort to build local programs that bring students back to the district. San Dieguito’s contribution for special education decreased by $1.9 million due to savings in legal expenses, mediation settlements, non-public agencies, non-public schools and residential treatment center costs as students transition back to district programs.

The district has also met the board’s requirement of maintaining a 4.5 percent minimum reserve. The reserve for economic uncertainties is 9.16 percent, in addition to the board’s 4.5 percent requirement.

“Our unrestricted reserves are higher than they’ve ever been in terms of dollar amounts. In percentage terms they’re the highest they’ve been since 2001-2002,” Dill said.

Dill said looking back the district has had surpluses in eight out of the last 10 years — the only years the district had deficits were coming out of the recession, “the worst economic times that any of us had ever seen.”

Recently, the board’s fiscal responsibility has been questioned by board members as well as members of the public. In June, the district was awarded the Grand Golden Fleece Award by the San Diego Taxpayer Association for its approval of salary increases for staff in 2015 that were projected to cause deficit spending.

SDUHSD Vice President Joyce Dalessandro said the reported 15-16 actuals are an example of the great job the district staff does every year.

“There have been so many inaccurate, uninformed claims regarding the financial health of this district that I have found to be appalling. Letters have been printed in the press and elsewhere accusing the staff and board majority of bankrupting this district,” Dalessandro said, noting people often do not understand how school financing works or how the budget builds over the course of the school year. “They have no idea how year in and year out, this board majority and our staff create budgets that work, that we are actually incredibly conservative in our expenditures with an understanding that ending balances always change.”

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