Even as the Hesperia Unified School District prepared to deal with an $8 million deficit, the California economy has continued to slide downhill, and the district must now prepare for a $13 million deficit.


"We were working on an $8 million deficit," Superintendent Mark McKinney said Thursday. "That was pretty sound and a pretty solid number, but then the governor's proposed budget comes out and it's a $13 million deficit. ... We're required to build a budget based on that proposal. No one likes it, and it could change. Honestly, it could get worse."


The district is currently negotiating with the Hesperia Teachers Association and the local chapter of the California School Employees Association to try to close the 5 percent budget gap represented by the estimated $8 million deficit the district had been previously working with, and even that had meant considerable pain, especially the district's contingency plan if negotiations don't bear fruit.


"That 94 [possible layoffs], that I hated doing, that only fixes an $8 million problem. That doesn't fix a $13 million problem," said McKinney. (And even then, more employees would need to be laid off: Non-teacher employees would have been laid off equal to their proportion of the entire HUSD workforce, if the CSEA didn't come up with concessions to close their portion of the budget gap. The school district, with approximately 2,000 employees, is the largest single employer in the Victor Valley.)


"When you look at our general fund, anywhere from 88 to 90 percent is personnel costs, so where do you go with that?"


And California's woes are likely to get worse.


"We know, right now, everything we read and see, it's a $20 billion deficit" on the state level, said McKinney. "That's what it is right now. Is that going to change between now and March? Probably so. ... That deficit doesn't get less; it gets greater."


More than 70 percent of the HUSD's revenue comes from state funding.


The district laid off teachers, staff and management last year, and McKinney is loath to do it again.


"I think we have cut down truly to the bare minimum. I don't want to cut any further. Every cut we make impacts what we do for kids."


And it's not likely to be over this year.


"It's going to be tough, and it's not a one-year thing; it's a multi-year thing," said McKinney. "But together, we'll get through this."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star