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High school board reduces budget further

At their March 9 board meeting, the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) Board of Trustees agreed to adopt a restructured district plan that would reduce the budget by more than $800,000 to keep the district’s finances out of the red.

The board reviewed past discussions regarding fiscal information, such as the status of the district for the current, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years, and found the overall 2009-2010 academic year budget needed to be reduced by $814,305 from the previously adopted budget.

FUHSD Superintendent Dale Mitchell let the board know that while they had to take responsibility for making sure the district’s budget is sound, the financial crisis was not caused by the board’s decisions.

Mitchell said he felt the state had made bad budget decisions that made FUHSD and other districts’ work more difficult. “[The budget revision] is the best-case scenario for our district because it has potential for reductions or reallocation of funds as necessary,” he said.

According to Mitchell, the district’s budget has been revised to keep it in a positive certification without the excessive use of one-time funds, saving the district from further budget reductions in the 2010-2011 school year.

The district adopted a budget plan that features steps that would increase revenue and save money, such as charging indirect costs for implementing categorical programs, reducing non-public school placement costs and reducing energy costs.

Other items in the budget adoption included the elimination of the district’s deferred maintenance match as well as restructuring administrative responsibilities of the Ivy/Oasis principal.

The duties of the English language learner coordinator will be combined with those of the Ivy principal and the director of student services’ duties will be combined with those of the Oasis principal’s.

Board members were particularly concerned with the delegation of these responsibilities, saying this would only benefit the district if the Ivy and Oasis principals were dedicated to their positions and prepared to make a long-term dedication to the district.

Other personnel throughout the district were impacted by the amendment plan. Reorganization of the business service and human resources offices, designation of confidential positions to classified positions and hour reductions for different personnel were some of the adjustments.

Mitchell’s budget amendment also included restoring the work year and salary reductions for teachers from the 2008-2009 academic year, as well as a rollback on the 0.69-percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) teachers were expecting to receive this year.

According to discussion held during the meeting, teachers had expected that the work year and salary reductions from the last academic year were only going to be for one year and believed they would receive their one-time pay increase from the COLA. Mitchell informed them these reductions were necessary because of the lack of funds available to the district.

The board expressed sympathy for the teachers’ situation, but “from the point of view of those who don’t have a job, the situation doesn’t seem quite as bad,” said Board President Bill O’Connor. “Those who are truly suffering are the three teachers who have lost their jobs.”

Board members also acknowledged that the teachers were going to have to work as hard as before, if not harder.

“This increased responsibility is going to require the hard work of everyone,” said Sharon Koehler. “[Teachers] made a sacrifice last year, but we don’t know what the next year holds.”

Mitchell expressed disappointment at the state’s decision to cut back so much educational funding.

“I’m disappointed that public education has taken such a hard hit,” he said. “This fiscal decision by California is going to have adverse consequences on the district’s ability to offer the educational support needed by the students.”

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