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March 3, 2010 > Board meeting focuses on budget

Board meeting focuses on budget

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The February 24 meeting of Fremont Unified School District's Board of Education focused on approving cuts of nearly $33 million, necessary to balance the budget. According to Superintendent Milt Werner, "We are grappling with this and need to work collaboratively to find solutions."

The district is required to submit its Second Interim Budget Report with a detailed 2010-11 Budget Reduction list, by March 15, to the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE).

At this third in a series of budget presentations over the past several Board meetings, Assistant Superintendent of Business, Bill Stephens detailed the anticipated budget reductions:

Deferred Maintenance ($200,000)
Art & Music Block Grant ($437,353)
Routine Restricted Maintenance Account ($1,000,000)
Operations & Grounds Reductions ($215,756)
Adult School Reductions ($1,500,000)
Custodial Reductions ($251,070)
Secondary Class Size Elimination ($1,395,044)
Increase Grade K-3 Class Size 30:1 ($4,460,000)
Elementary Transportation Reduction ($122,000)
Tier III Program Percentage Contribution ($494,758)
Negotiable:
Elementary PREP Elimination ($6,844,490)
District-Wide Stipend Reduction ($468,868)
District-Wide Pay Cut (4 percent) ($6,744,428)
District-Wide Work Year Reduction - 5 days ($8,614,316)

In regard to employees' bargaining groups, the district staff will be holding meetings and negotiating with them around several issues including salaries, stipends and elementary prep teachers.

The trustees stated that they would still like to be able to make changes, to any cuts if possible, prior to the approval of the final budget in June. "I look at this tonight as fulfilling a deadline and not setting things in stone," said Trustee Larry Sweeney. "We're forced to make decisions that the state is unable to do."

Fremont Adult School received a bit of good news as their anticipated budget reduction was changed from $2 million to $1.5 million. "We are an A+ school," said the school's Interim Vice Principal, Steve Giudici. "We have to preserve our Adult School and we are optimistic, even with a $1.5 million proposed cut."

In other areas, Board members expressed their concerns that the number of students in K-3 classes would hopefully not reach the level of 30:1 (30 students per teacher), as stipulated in the proposed budget.

Another bright spot was that all Board members agreed not to layoff the counselor positions that were on the chopping block or to issue pink slips. Fifty percent of school counseling positions had been lost over the past three years leaving the district's students underserved and the remaining counselors overworked.

FUSD will need to find $600,000 to retain the positions. Board President, Lara York, suggested utilizing some of the reserves for this purpose. "I think we have to be using our reserves, but I don't want us to be stuck without a safety net. I don't want to be hoarding the money and I think we need to move forward and use some of it," she said.

Trustee Lily Mei encouraged those present to donate to the school district's Donation Fund. "If every family (representing 31,000 students) would donate $100, we could raise $3 million and that could make a difference." FUSD website: www.fremont.k12.ca.us.

The next FUSD Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m.

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