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Deputy Superintendent Ruthie Quinto

Dire financial times are ahead, not only for the next school year but likely several more as well, but no staff layoffs or pay cuts are being considered at this time, Fresno Unified deputy superintendent Ruthie Quinto said Wednesday night.

Quinto provided an overview to trustees of the latest version of California’s proposed budget and how it may impact the state’s third-largest school district.

Based on current revenue projections, the district will need to trim $27.4 million from the 2020-21 budget, an additional $24.7 million the following year, and $44.6 million the third year if there are no supplemental appropriations, she said.

And that’s after potentially spending an extra $13.1 million next year on deep cleaning and other health and safety-related needs when schools are open, and distance learning when they are not.

Big Drop in State Funding Expected

Fresno Unified is expecting a $79.1 million decrease in Local Control funds in the next fiscal year starting July 1, but the revenue loss will be offset by federal CARES stimulus funding and budget-cutting, Quinto said.

Future budget shortfalls will be offset by the district’s own “rainy day” reserves of $98 million, she said.

Based on current revenue projections, the district will need to trim $27.4 million from the 2020-21 budget, an additional $24.7 million the following year, and $44.6 million the third year if there are no supplemental appropriations. — deputy superintendent Ruthie Quinto

Quinto said state officials project that sales tax revenues will drop by 27.2%, personal income taxes by 25.5% and corporate sales taxes by 22.7% because of the economic downturn caused by efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.

After hearing Quinto’s overview, trustees talked about some areas where the district could save money.

Trustees Terry Slatic and Carol Mills questioned continuing to provide funding for the so-called “Designated Schools,” where teachers are paid more to provide an extra 30 minutes of instruction daily and for 10 extra training days in an effort to boost students’ academic performance.

The district had planned to expand the program, now at 40 elementary schools, to an additional six schools in 2020-21.

Distance Learning Cut Instruction Time

But Slatic and Mills said that the shift in March to distance learning after schools were closed meant that students weren’t getting their usual full day of instruction, let alone the extra half hour.

The district needs to be flexible when it comes to delivering instruction as the pandemic continues, which could include a hybrid of in-classroom and distance learning, Mills said.

“Those additional funding sources to be able to do that are going to be critical,” she said.

Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas said the board should consider all budget-cutting opens that will help preserve jobs and avoid furloughs, such as instituting a hiring freeze or even reducing trustees’ monthly stipend.

District officials did not provide information Wednesday about how much Fresno Unified pays for the Designated Schools program.

Don’t Cut Funds for Needy Students

Other trustees defended the program, which they said has bolstered the academic performance of the district’s most needy students, including the homeless and English language learners.

Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas said the board should consider all budget-cutting opens that will help preserve jobs and avoid furloughs, such as instituting a hiring freeze or even reducing trustees’ monthly stipend.

After years of no stipend raises, trustees voted last year to automatically increase their stipends by 5% annually.

This year’s annual stipend is $18,675.

The district will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget at the June 10 meeting before trustees vote to approve it.

Revisions Might Be Needed Later

Quinto cautioned that even after trustees approve the final budget — which must happen by June 30 — the budget might need to be revised later if Congress appropriates additional coronavirus relief funds or if state tax revenues come in higher or lower than now forecast.

California followed the lead of the federal government in delaying the filing deadline for personal income taxes from April 15 to July 15 this year because of the coronavirus.

2 Responses

  1. Andyfab

    I know of many, many parents who will be sending their children to online charter schools like K-12 California because they are unsure that Fresno Unified can make their schools safe and still provide quality teachers to provide a quality education. Many parents have said that these online schools have curriculums that are designed for online teaching and they provide the proper computer and programs and online textbooks that make for an organized and fulfilling academic experience. They also provide online one on one learning with a teacher when the student needs one. All of this means that many of our public schools will be losing a lot of money and will have to make more extensive budget cuts to programs. The school boards should talk about this come the next meeting.

    Reply
  2. John Smith

    As a staff member of Fresno Unified I am frustrated with the lack of answers to our questions about the future when we know they’re already talking it. The truth is that they are already planning for layoffs and paycuts for the 2021-2022 school year, just not 2020-2021. If you know this is happening, why are you fully funding the police? Focus on your own staff first not Fresno PD. Layoff all the extra employees you hired to management positions in the past 3 years, I know fully well that those are all unneeded positions that can be eliminated to help pay your teachers and keep programs for students, not give them pay cuts because you feel bad about laying off staff. Most high schools have gone from 6 to 8 counselors and some even have 10 counselors including a secretary, all these hires with no significant increase in students enrolled at these schools. How much money can be saved by laying off unneeded positions and ensuring your teachers and students are the focus?

    Reply

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