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Sweetwater Union High School District board approves plan to solve budget woes

CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- The Sweetwater Union High School District board Monday unanimously passed its plan to balance the district budget by the end of the year after a massive amount of financial woes.

District leadership announced the budget shortfall for the 2018-2019 school year, originally estimated as $10.5 million, is now down to just under $5 million.

Sweetwater Union High Superintendent Dr. Karen Janney likened fixing the fiscal distress more "to running long distance then running a sprint" but assured the public real progress is being made.

New projections for the 2019-2020 deficit show it is down from about $42 million to $22.5 million.

Still many parents, students and even teachers spoke out over the budget crisis and questioned how cuts of any kind will affect students.

"We have smoke and mirrors of words like projected. What does projected really mean?" Kathleen Cheers said.

The district credits the big shift in the deficit largely to more teachers taking advantage of a supplemental early retirement plan, or SERP, than expected. More than 300 teachers have retired since the plan was approved in December.

The district says it is trying to avoid layoffs, but recently 87 administrators, including all assistant principals, were given potential layoff notices. The district is also projecting a decline in enrollment over the next two years by at least a couple hundred students.

Other avenues that are expected to save money include cutting about 16 positions from district management and potential cuts from any other support or administrative positions that don’t work directly at school sites.

In addition to approving the fiscal stabilization plan, the board also approved the second interim budget, which is due at the end of the week.

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