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Poway Unified facing $28 million budget shortfall, will avoid layoffs

Posted at 5:31 PM, Mar 13, 2024

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Poway Unified, like many school districts across California, is facing a significant budget shortfall of $28 million. However, the district tells ABC 10News it does not plan layoffs for next school year.

“This is a downturn, but last year was an upturn, right?" PUSD Associate Superintendent for Business Support Services Ron Little told ABC 10News Wednesday. "So I think it’s all about strategically planning and involving as many voices and ideas as possible to get through the downturns.”

Little says there are a number of factors leading to budget deficits at so many districts. It starts with how schools are funded in California. State funding is based on enrollment and attendance. Both those numbers are dropping.

“Something like two thirds of the districts throughout the state are facing declining enrollment this year and through the projected future," Little says. In the case of Poway Unified, Little says the district lost about 1,500 students during the pandemic, which those students switching to home-schooling, charter schools, private schools, or moving out of state.

Attendance is falling, too. At PUSD, the absentee rate has risen from 3% to 4.5% since the pandemic. “Even that 1.5% difference is worth a few million dollars in funding each year," Little said.

Other factors include the end of covid relief funding, which paid for mental health and other services that districts now have to fund, and a weaker-than-expected cost of living increase from the state, which Little says created a $12 million hole.

Little says while PUSD expects to avoid layoffs for the upcoming schoolyear, the district is looking to cut $15 million from its budget, while using reserves for cover the remainder of the spending gap. Those cuts could come from slashing bus routes, cutting back on programs, eliminating open positions, and putting a hiring freeze on others.

The district is engaging public opinion to help guide its decision making. PUSD families received a link to a survey this week.