Fresno Unified approves $17.5m in cuts

Fresno Unified School District trustees, still struggling to bridge a multimillion-dollar budget gap, voted Wednesday to make budget cuts totaling $17.5 million by combining mentoring and beginner teacher assistance programs and also trimming central office expenses.

The trustees are seeking ways to close a $35 million budget shortfall and are making a series of budget trims.

Last month in a first round of cuts, the board voted to trim $17 million that will lead to increased class sizes and fewer teaching positions and likely will result in staff furlough days.

School board members got a big round of applause when Carol Mills challenged her fellow trustees to prove they are willing to take the lead by voting to cut their own pay by at least 5%.

Even though Mills' motion was seconded, the trustees learned they would have to postpone that vote because the proposal was not on the meeting agenda.

That proposal -- as well as proposals to trim trustees' health benefits and other costs -- will resurface later, said Ruth Quinto, deputy superintendent/chief financial officer.

Greg Gadams, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, questioned why the trustees were considering expanding summer school this year at a time when school districts must keep cutting budgets because of revenue decreases.

Even though the money being used for summer school is "one-time," it could be designated for other uses -- including keeping some teachers from being laid off, Gadams said.

The trustees will conduct another budget workshop next month. A final public hearing is scheduled for June 2, with the final vote to adopt the 2010-11 budget scheduled for June 16.

In other business, the trustees:

  • Voted 6-1 to adopt a resolution certifying a final environmental report for proposed sports improvements at Bullard High School and award a $5.9 million construction bid. The project was held up by a neighbor's challenge that the district had not conducted a thorough review of the project's impacts.