Special to the Village News
There were no public comments Monday, June 6, at a hearing for the 2022-2023 budget of the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District. Trustees were presented a report by Cindi Martin, associate superintendent, business services, who said the final budget should be adopted at the next board meeting on June 21.
Martin said the proposed budget is 2.8% greater than last year’s document. It shows total unrestricted revenue from the general fund to be $54.4 million. That includes $4.5 million from federal funds and most of the rest from state money, including $9 million earmarked for learning recovery from the impact of COVID-19.
Unrestricted expenditures in the general fund proposed budget is $55.6 million. Nearly half of that – $26.5 million – is for teacher salaries. Another $9.5 million is for classified salaries. Employee benefits amount to $16.1 million.
Again, this year, the district has budgeted more expenditures than its revenue, but Martin explained it is a “planned deficit.”
“It’s called careful planning,” she told the board members. She said there won’t be an actual $1.2 million deficit, but that by budgeting the funds as “committed,” the money can be saved for use in the future.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state budget hasn’t been approved yet. That should come in early July, Martin said, but the state is in good financial shape and a healthy budget windfall is expected.
Martin said the district’s budget has a $4.6 million reserve and an additional special reserve fund of $9.4 million that have been committed. Combined, that is a total reserve of $14.0 million, or 15.8% of the budget.
“The state’s current financial projections trigger the law that caps school district’s reserves for 2022-23 at 10%, including assigned and designated funds,” Martin’s report said. “Rather than assigning our reserves, we will be committing our reserves.”
Martin further explained the difference between committing and assigning balances. Commitments require formal action by the board and may only be changed with formal board action. Assignments represent the intention of the use of the fund balance for specific purposes.
“While this is a technical change, it is not a change in our protocol as we bring the assignment of funds to the board,” she said.
Trustees learned that class size was an important factor in figuring the number of teachers needed. Martin said the district’s goal is a 21:1 ratio for grades TK-3, 26:1 for grades 4-6, and 21:1 for grades 7-8. For PK, the ratio is 12:1 with a teacher and aide.
Revenue for transportation and special education does not cover those expenses, Martin said. Transportation, which is not required, is allocated $781,898 from the state, the same amount since 2013.
Pension expenses are another issue with more people retiring early and living longer; $12 million goes for transportation and pensions.
Martin noted that the district gave the largest raise in the county this year, 2% across the board. “We value our employees,” she said.
Looking ahead, the district’s revised budget will be considered in July-August. Then in September, the unaudited actual budget to close out the fiscal year will be presented.
The board also had a public hearing – with no public input – and heard a report about the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, a three-year plan that describes the goals, actions, services, and expenditures to support positive student outcomes that address state and local priorities.
Dr. Candace Singh, superintendent, said LCAP was an analysis and gives direction for the district. This school year, the district is completing the first year in the cycle.
Julie Norby, assistant superintendent of educational services, made the presentation to the board in one of her final responsibilities before retiring.
She noted that the statewide dashboard should be returning in November or December, showing how the district compares statewide.
Among the positive changes for the next school year were more visual and performing arts programs and additional intervention teachers. Looking at state test scores, she noted that reading scores were better.
The goal, she said, was for a 3% improvement each year following a decline in learning due to COVID-19 restraints.
Grades 3-8 are on target, she said, and that math scores were very good.
“It’s exciting to see progress,” Norby said.
She reminded the board that “this is still a COVID year” with 17,000 days missed by students and staff.
Norby said she considered retiring early in March, but she was pleased to work with staff on the report because, “this is the fun part, recognizing our accomplishments.”