San Dieguito board prioritizes maintenance, counselors in 2022-23 budget

The SDUHSD board met at SDA on June 9.
(Karen Billing)

As the San Dieguito Union High School District board prepares to approve its budget for the coming school year on June 23, trustees have requested to make room for increased facilities maintenance and to hire an additional counselor at each high school site.

At the June 9 meeting Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas, wearing her hat as the associate superintendent of business services, said with a significant increase in state education funding ($4.3 million more in revenue in 2022-23, $6.2 million two years out and $7 million more in year three), the district was looking to be out of deficit spending by the 2023-24 school year. With the board-requested additions of a $1 million set aside for facilities maintenance and about $600,000 for counselors, they would now project to be back in the black by 2024-25.

During public comment, parent Kimberly McSherry expressed her concerns about the district’s deferred maintenance problems. She shared photos of plumbing infrastructure in disrepair, heating and ventilation units at the end of functional life, broken walkways and stair railings that pose fall risks and old athletic equipment on campuses such as “rotting and broken bleachers that look like something from Chernobyl”.

“Our schools shouldn’t be in this condition, left to fall apart,” McSherry said, encouraging the board to spend funds first on repairs and then finish voter-approved Prop AA projects.

SDUHSD Trustee Julie Bronstein said she has heard stories and seen the photos and said designating more funding toward maintenance was important to her.

“Our campuses are beautiful but there is disrepair,” she said. “There are places that we can improve and we need to improve.”

SDUHSD Vice President Michael Allman agreed, saying “Some of those pictures are shocking.” He proposed increasing the amount set aside yearly for deferred maintenance from $250,000 to $1 million, given the increased revenues the district was looking at.

The district last held a facilities workshop last summer before approving plans for a district office modernization (the office project, as well as potential district swimming pools, would come from reimbursement funds from the state that can only be used on capital projects). At the May 19 board meeting, the board approved a guaranteed maximum price for the district office project of $7,269,879, as well as a roof and HVAC replacement project at Carmel Valley Middle and an HVAC replacement on the gym at Torrey Pines. The district is also nearing completion on its latest Prop AA project, the new food service building, computer-aided design (CAD) lab and maker space at Torrey Pines.

Douglas said they hope to schedule a facilities workshop soon for the board to look at maintenance projects and consider Prop AA priorities.

As site counselors are stretched very thin, Bronstein also advocated implementing one extra counselor at each high school to provide students assistance with course selection, college planning and just having a trusted adult on campus that they can turn to.

The proposed budget also provides for additional 10 days for psychologists and 10 student support facilitators.

In the discussion on budget priorities, SDUHSD Trustee Katrina Young said her priority is mental health and safety and SDUHSD President Mo Muir said the most important thing to her was to hire more teachers to lower class sizes. While the trustees agreed about having a conversation about adding teachers and reducing class sizes, it might not be possible for inclusion in this budget by June 23.