February 20, 2019

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Morning Report: Sweetwater’s Unexpected Budget Crisis Wasn’t So Unexpected After All

Feb 11, 2019 |

For months, officials at Sweetwater Union High School District have insisted their budget problems only came to light in September. But multiple employees, in fact, notified at least two top administrators months earlier that the district was on course to massively overspend last year, according to interviews with state officials and documents obtained by Voice of San Diego.

Will Huntsberry reports that the two administrators, Sweetwater’s chief financial officer and director of finance, retired during the summer as the books were being closed on the district’s previous fiscal year. A spokesman had previously said their retirements were pre-planned and not related to Sweetwater’s current budget crisis. But, according to a past Sweetwater employee, the district’s chief financial officer retired very abruptly, citing personal reasons.

Some employees noticed the director of finance making strange statements about the budget last year.

“‘It’s just so bad,’ he kept saying,” according to one employee. “‘Next year is gonna be so bad. It’s gonna be so bad. There’s going to be layoffs.’ It was weird. I didn’t know what he meant at the time.”

“We obviously know what he meant now,” the employee added.

Few Live and Work Downtown

In the eyes of urbanists, the mark of a successful downtown is one where homes and offices are located nearby — workers need only walk or hop on a quick transit ride.

But that dynamic is the exception rather than the rule in San Diego.

Lisa Halverstadt reports that less than 4 percent of downtown workers also lived in the area and 96 percent commuted there for work, according to research commissioned by the Downtown San Diego Partnership. Most downtown residents commute to neighborhoods like Sorrento Valley, Kearny Mesa or Mission Valley.

That said, downtown boosters think there’s reason to be optimistic. They’re pointing to the tech industry.

Halverstadt’s story is a part of The People’s Reporter, a feature where the public can submit questions and vote on the questions they want answered.

San Diego Infrastructure Backlog Is Soaring

The San Diego City Council will be presented with a report Monday showing, according to KPBS, that officials need an extra $1.86 billion over the next five years for sidewalks, streetlights, new libraries and a host of other infrastructure problem.

The biggest unfunded capital need involves stormwater. For years, according to a city audit released last year, mayors and city councils have refused to completely tackle this major infrastructure issue, which can lead to flooding, sinkholes, metal and bacteria-filled streams and toxic coastal waters.

KPBS also reports that the City Council will also consider a separate report Monday related to staff overtime. Most of that overtime pay — $8.6 million — went to the police department, where officers are working longer hours to make up for a high vacancy rate.

Politics Roundup

  • The Republicans’ safest seat on the San Diego City Council isn’t all that safe anymore: District 5 is nearly evenly split between the two major parties and independents. The most active Republican to emerge can’t legally raise or spend money until September while another potential candidate says the city’s new salary hike made him consider a run.
  • Marie Waldron, the most powerful Republican in the California Assembly, blamed GOP losses in the last election on being outspent at the congressional level, which trickled down to City Council races and school boards. In other San Diego state delegation news, Assemblyman Todd Gloria is trying to give local environmental regulators more power.
  • Over on the podcast, the crew talks about a new wastewater recycling project that will affect customer’s bill — but by how much, the city won’t say. They also break down a potential new ballot measure intended to reduce carbon emissions and alleviate the housing shortage.

San Diego Says Goodbye to One of Its Best

Famed scientist Walter Munk passed away Friday. Here’s the U-T’s obituary. Scripps Institution of Oceanography has a moving remembrance as well.

From Scott: Munk made UC San Diego and its oceanographic and climate work famous worldwide. He contributed to the Allied victory in World War II as the Navy invested heavily in understanding the ocean so it could have the upper hand. He was a brilliant, charismatic explorer and researcher and he was one of San Diego’s most prominent and valued citizens.

He was also an early supporter of Voice of San Diego. We will miss him and wish his family well.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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