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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.

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