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FUHSD takes 'less of a loss' with State budget approval

With a newly approved California state budget approved by lawmakers, the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) is again reviewing their books to figure out exactly what adjustments need to be made for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years in order to get a handle on the district’s budget.

At a regular board meeting on February 23, the FUHSD Board of Trustees listened to Assistant Superintendent of Finance Chet Gannet and Superintendent Dale Mitchell lay out a tentative plan to address the school district’s budget deficit.

According to Gannet, the new state budget permits the school district to organize certain categorical programs into three different tiers of monetary adjustments.

Programs in the first tier will receive the same budget amount as they did last year and will have no extra funds or have funds removed if the budget changes. Programs in this tier are special education, home to school transportation, economic impact students and child nutrition.

Second tier programs will receive a 15.4 percent budget reduction for the 2008-2009 year, and will have a 4.5 percent budget cut for the 2009-2010 year. These programs will not receive additional funding if they become available.

Programs in the second tier include agricultural vocational education and a partnership academy that also is offered by the agricultural department.

Third tier programs will receive the same 15.4 percent budget reduction for the 2008-2009 year and 4.5 percent budget reduction for the 2009-2010 year but will have funds added and removed as decided by the board of trustees.

Program funds ranked in the third tier include safety consolidation, arts and music, high school exit exam preparation, deferred maintenance, educational technology, gifted and talented education, instructional material, peer assist and review and summer schooling.

Gannet said programs represented in the three tiers only make up about $2.5 million of the $22 million district budget. The remaining $20 million make up the district general fund and will suffer a 7.8 percent loss.

However, Gannet said the original estimation for budget loss was set at around nine percent, so the district was going to experience “less of a loss” for the year than once figured.

Gannet and his finance team are still working to refine the financial information that has been given to the district but finds the process like “working in a vacuum” since there is still budget information that has not been finalized.

Representatives for both the teachers and classified associations (union) of the district stood before the board to recommend areas where they thought the district could make budget adjustments without having to cut personnel.

Some of the suggestions included cutting back on administration work days and cutting back on administrative staff in general.

“Let’s take a look at the <administrative> personnel numbers and the diversity of district members in the office,” said one representative. “There has been a 10 percent student population increase in 10 years, and the district used to be run with 12 district employees.”

Board members agreed with the importance of keeping teachers in the classroom but reminded representatives that not everything being asked for would be implemented.

“We have to decide what the most important aspects are and not just cut things from a budget because it’s convenient,” said board member Marc Steffler.

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