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By Will Fritz
Special to the Village News 

FUHSD approves raises while facing budget deficits


Last updated 6/16/2018 at 5:28pm

The Fallbrook Union High School District’s Board of Trustees approved salary increases for district employees, including the superintendent and assistant superintendent at its June 11 meeting, while an administrator predicted budget shortfalls over the next three years.

The district’s teachers and most other employees will see a 2 percent pay increase, effective July 1.

Superintendent Hugo Pedroza’s pay will be upped by 3 percent to $242,311 – the second adjustment to his contract since 2014, when he was hired with a base salary of $195,000.

At the same meeting, district Chief Business Officer Khai Nguyen told trustees that faced with declining enrollment – and thus declining money from the state – the district was projected to see its $200,000 surplus for the coming school year drop to a $1 million deficit by the 2019-20 school year, and a $2 million deficit by 2020-21.

Fallbrook High School has gone from 3,000 students in 2009 to around 2,000 this year, according to KPBS, taking about $4.5 million in funding with them over the last 10 years.

The district can afford to cover costs using its reserves for now, but its balance could drop down to about $1 million by the end of 2020-21, bringing it very close to the minimum 3 percent of its operating budget the district is required by law to have on hand at all times, which translates to about $900,000, Nguyen said.

But he predicted that once fiscally conservative Gov. Jerry Brown is termed out of office at the end of the year, whoever replaces him may authorize more state funding for schools, potentially rescuing the district from its deficits.

“We don’t know what it’s going to be like for ’19-’20 or ’20-’21 with the new governor that’s coming in,” he said. “But his is what we are estimating going forward. So something may change next year with the new governor.”

At least one Fallbrook resident was unhappy with the increase in executive pay.

“Did someone win the lottery and give this district an extra bunch of money?” ex-teacher Lita Tabish asked the board. “I was here two months ago and you were all crying broke.”

Pedroza’s salary increase, she said, is an unreasonable amount.

“The proposed contract with the superintendent increases his full package – benefits and salary – to a quarter of a million dollars. That is absurd for a school district of one comprehensive high school,” she said.

It’s worth noting that the superintendent’s new salary will still be below the $252,152 that Fallbrook Union Elementary School District Superintendent Candace Singh was making in 2016, the most recent year for which government watchdog Transparent California has records.

But the raise would put his income above those of the superintendents for the much larger Temecula Valley and Murrieta Valley school districts, who made about $237,000 and $211,000 in 2016, respectively.

The superintendent in nearby Oceanside made about $277,000 in 2016.

Pedroza’s salary increase was recommended based on a positive performance review, according to a staff report. Tabish questioned the superintendent’s performance, saying she’s seen Fallbrook High School’s ranking on a school performance-measuring website drop over the last few years.

The school is ranked a five out of 10 on, average for the state. And earlier in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Jose Iniguez told trustees the district has seen improvements over the last few years in several categories. It’s decreased suspension rates and increased proficiency rates in English and math, he said. It’s also raised graduation rates to 84 percent – though that’s still below the countywide average of more than 90 percent.

Trustee Lee De Meo defended Pedroza’s performance.

“I think our superintendent has provided great leadership in bringing this school back from an issue of where it did have a very bad reputation in the community and we are on the way back,” he said.

And Board of Trustees President James O’Donnell dismissed Tabish’s statements in an interview after the meeting.

“Ms. Tabish has got her own agenda,” he said.

Paying high salaries to administrators, O'Donnell said, is a necessity if the district wants to keep quality, competent managers.

“When I look up the facts, I look at – what are they paying these guys at the elementary school? A lot more. What are they paying in Oceanside? A lot more. Vista? A lot more.”


Reader Comments

tracydaniel writes:

It's time the two districts (Elementary School District and High School District) unify and eliminate the duplicated positions (i.e Superintendents, Director of Student Services, etc.) and put the money towards teachers and reducing class sizes. It's not too late to get it on the November ballot! Fallbrook has approximately 7,500 students between the two districts. Looking at the statistics from other districts in this article makes it clear that students will be better served with one district

tracydaniel writes:

The district was fined $13,047 on their most recent audited financial statements (2016) for having too many administrators to teachers. This finding can be found on page 91 of the Audited Financial Statements and can be found using this link


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