The deficit is projected to build to a $82.3 million deficit for the 2020-2021 school year and $107.7 million for the 2021-2022 school year. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco schools outline cuts to handle projected $82.3 million deficit

Budget process complicated by revenues, federal aid and delayed tax payments in flux

San Francisco schools outlined a plan Wednesday to balance a budget deficit that could reach $82.3 million for the upcoming school year, with more likely to happen later.

Curriculum development and teacher training would take some of the biggest hits.

San Francisco Unified School District previously contended with a $22.6 million deficit for the current school year, now up to $40 million as a result of coronavirus impacts. The deficit is projected to build to a $82.3 million deficit for the 2020-2021 school year and $107.7 million for the 2021-2022 school year.

Just how much revenue will be available is still unclear due to coronavirus, making it tough to realistic budget, officials noted at a Board of Education budget committee meeting Wednesday.

“As we’re seeing the impacts of COVID-19 on our national and local economy there’s concern that this outlook may continue to get worse,” said Meghan Wallace, SFUSD chief financial officer. “These numbers rely on those worst-case scenarios.”

The district is targeting $16 million cuts to the central office to spare school sites, though educators and parents previously voiced concern about an indirect impact on services. Another $3 million will be made in non-personnel costs through things like catered meetings, supplies, contracts, and conferences, while $3 million will be reduced from the general fund across the board.

Divisions with the highest cuts include curriculum and instruction that could see a nearly $4 million cut and $2.3 million in cuts to the Student Family and Community Support Department partly by eliminating 24 filled and six unfilled positions. Impacts would be felt by the reduced professional development, support for educators, and trainings on topics such as restorative practices and implicit bias.

Finance and business services could also see five or six vacant positions unfilled, Department of Technology would see three layoffs and five open positions unfilled, and two to three positions of within the African American Achievement & Leadership Initiative would be eliminated.

Early education classes might be merged based on low enrollment to save $161,000 while changing transportation routes could save $2.3 million.

Many cuts entail eliminating vacant positions, which educators protested for bringing strained workloads, as well as current positions. District officials warned teachers in February that layoffs might be coming to contend with the deficit, and that $26 million in cuts were needed.

Even with the proposed $22 million in cuts and other budget adjustments, SFUSD is anticipating a $36.4 million deficit for the upcoming school year and a $61.8 million deficit for the following year. With the state and local budget in flux, federal aid unclear, and delayed tax payments, officials are urging board members to plan for a worst-case scenario that spells a $56 million deficit for the upcoming year and $71.6 million for the 2021-2022 school year under the proposed reductions.

On the other hand, closing schools for the remainder of the year saved $3.8 million in utilities and facilities costs.

SFUSD received $800,000 from California Senate Bill 117 and $4.6 million in private donations. The district will also receive $11 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, though some must go to private schools.

However, some financial assistance might not reach SFUSD until July at the earliest as schools start thinking about how to make up for a disrupted semester. It’s unclear how much Gov. Gavin Newsom will dole out to SFUSD from a $355 million grant to California K-12 and higher education institutions from the CARES Act.

“We acknowledge that this is just going to be devastating times,” said Commissioner Jenny Lam. “I think we’re going to have some really challenging discussions and decisions we’re going to have to embark on.”

The balancing plan will be presented to stakeholders like the Parent-Teacher Association, virtual town halls, and labor representatives. A revised budget from Gov. Gavin’s Newsom’s office and a revenue update for San Francisco are anticipated within the month.

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