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Fresno Trustees Prepare for Votes on $2.1 Billion Budget, $500M Bond Measure
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
June 18, 2024

Thursday's Fresno Unified School Board meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. (GV Wire File)

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The Fresno Unified School Board is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $2.1 billion spending plan for the 2024-25 year that includes some belt-tightening as well as dipping into reserves to cover costs.

At the same meeting trustees could also green light putting a $500 million bond measure on the November ballot.

The board typically meets on Wednesdays but is meeting on Thursday because of the Juneteenth holiday.

The budget needs to be approved by the June 30 deadline. Because the board traditionally does not meet in July, the bond measure decision needs to be made this month to meet election filing deadlines.

On the 2024-25 budget, trustees have signed off on $24 million in cuts that won’t touch classrooms and that will add 33 special education and 44 school security positions, all of which are top priorities for trustees.

The difference between the district’s expected revenues and expenditures is $189 million, of which $119 million is spending of one-time resources and the remaining $70 million is in the unrestricted fund, district spokeswoman Nikki Henry said.

Balancing the Budget

The deficit is being covered by spending cuts and the “completion of one-time spending initiatives,” Henry said in an email. “With the influx of Federal COVID relief dollars, the total restricted and unrestricted fund balances for 23/24 have increased to be $563.5M (est). We are continuing to strategically spend down one-time resources to provide student supports in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

Those supports include $35 million in after-school enrichment activity contracts for next year that the board will consider approving at Thursday’s meeting.

To balance next year’s budget the district’s reserve fund will be pared down from a level of 8.84% this year to 8.06%.

The district expects to be able to stay above the state’s mandated level of 2% through 2026-27, when the level is expected to drop to 4.65%. Board policy requires that the reserves, the equivalent of a savings account that’s maintained in the event of economic uncertainty, should range from 2% to 10%.

The district expects to continue dipping into reserves in upcoming years to cover costs because revenues are expecting to keep dropping, in part because of enrollment losses. The district is forecasting a decrease of more than 1,000 students in the new school year and 900 fewer students in each of the two following years. The state allocates funding to school districts based on enrollments.

Bond Measure Up for Vote

Also on Thursday’s agenda is a vote on a proposed $500 million bond measure for the November ballot. It would be the largest in the district’s history and would also raise FUSD’s tax rate to $238.86 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, the highest among Fresno County’s school districts. The current rate is $213.86.

The projects could include $37 million in facilities needs that were on the Measure M project list but weren’t funded.

The teachers union could help determine how to spend up to one-third of the bond measure revenues due to a clause in its current contract. It would mark the first time the Fresno Teachers Association has had a direct role in such spending decisions.

The district’s consultants have conducted several surveys that indicate strong community support for a $500 million bond measure. It would require 55% of voter approval to pass.

The public portion of the board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday in the board room of the downtown Education Center at M and Tulare streets.

 

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
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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