Fresno Unified Faces $38 Million Budget Deficit. Trustees Say No School Safety Cuts. - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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Fresno Unified Faces $38 Million Budget Deficit. Trustees Say No School Safety Cuts.

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Fresno Unified trustees will need to make budget cuts in some areas to cover $38 million in extra pay for district employees. (Shutterstock)
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Fresno Unified may have avoided a teacher strike last month, but the district will need to find $38 million in savings in other areas as a result of pay boosts to district staffers.

“Honestly, in a $1.5 billion budget, there’s probably $38 million that ought to go away and never come back.” — Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson

The cost-of-living and one-time payments that the district negotiated with the Fresno Teachers Association also apply to other employee contracts because of “me too” clauses.

But School Board members said at Wednesday’s meeting that budget cuts need to come from someplace other than school safety and security.

In a presentation on safety and security, trustees learned that the campus safety assistants implementation plan, the Raptor Emergency Notification System, and the purchase of weapons detection systems at athletic stadiums are among the items that could be delayed due to potential budget trims.

The security improvements have an estimated cost of $3 million, trustees were told.

They made it clear that they don’t want budget cuts that will jeopardize the safety and security of students and staff.

“I feel like we were behind the ball a year ago and it’s taken some time to kind of get up to speed and we still have a ways to go. And I really would not like to see any of these things held back,” Board Clerk Susan Wittrup said.

Resource Officer Contracts Up for Renewal

Board president Veva Islas said the board may want to take a look at whether to continue security expenditures such as providing vehicles for police officers and sheriff’s deputies who are working as school resource officers under contract from the district.

Amy Idsvoog, who heads the Health and Safety Division, said the contracts with the Fresno Police Department and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office are up for renewal this spring.

Islas said she wants schools to continue to focus with students and parents on the importance of providing safe routes to school. For example, she questioned whether speed-monitoring signs could help inform drivers in school zones.

A number of those signs are not operational, said Walter Gunn, executive director of safety and security for the district.

“We’re working with the city to get those back operational. But we do have 27, if I’m not mistaken. And we are definitely looking at getting more,” Gunn told the board.

District Revenues Could Shrink

Expenditures will be under the microscope because the days are over when the district had a seemingly bottomless well of money to draw from largely from extra state and federal COVID-related funding, Superintendent Bob Nelson said.

The district needs to live within its means, and that means trimming $38 million, he said.

“Honestly, in a $1.5 billion budget, there’s probably $38 million that ought to go away and never come back,” Nelson said after the meeting. “There’s probably $38 million of gristle and fat, quite frankly, that for whatever reason is outdated or is not, you know, effectuating student outcomes in the way that it should.

“I need people to actually comb through their budget and make a recommendation and then we will land on that. And ultimately the board will decide. And if they decide safety is not on the chopping block, so be it.”

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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