Although the state budget remains unresolved and a multimillion-dollar deficit still looms, school districts are required to submit an adopted budget for 2011-12 to the state by June 30. We have been working with our employee groups and the board for the past several months to plan for next year, and I wanted to provide you an update on our plans and process.
As you are likely aware, reduction in funding of K-12 education in California has exceeded $18 billion over the past three years. These cuts, and the continuing uncertainties in relation to the state budget for 2011-12, have led many California school districts to plan for significant reductions next year. This is true even among basic-aid districts like ours that have fared better than revenue-limit districts during the recession but now face increased “fair-share” reductions as the state strives to achieve greater equity between basic-aid and revenue-limit districts.
In the Fremont Union High School District, all the key groups have come together and renewed our shared commitment to an exceptional educational experience for your children. We have also collaboratively made a thoughtful decision to continue to stay whole in 2011-12. Thus, we have not planned any reductions-in-force next year among our certificated and classified employee groups.
With that said, please be aware that our employee groups have responded with remarkable flexibility and cooperation to ensure our academic and enrichment programs continue without compromise. This assistance has come at personal cost and demonstrates our staff’s deep commitment to educational excellence and the communities we serve. Our governing board, too, is to be applauded for the demonstrated commitment to keeping the district whole. We will achieve this with the board’s support of utilizing one-time funding and to relying partially on our reserves as well as the other measures we have taken in recent years – from reducing administrative staff at the district office to achieving savings through our new solar power and energy efficiency program.
We acknowledge you may have questions about our plans for 2011-12. Some may wonder why we are moving forward with major construction projects during these difficult economic times. In fact, bond funds cannot be used for general operating expenses, such as employee salaries or textbooks. We will continue to move forward with the projects supported by the Measure B bond passed by voters in 2008. Students in our schools now and for years to come will benefit from the facility improvements and technology acquisitions enabled by Measure B.
Others may be wondering why we haven’t cut back on staff or programs, like many other school districts throughout the state. We believe the restoration of cuts is never easy and the programs are never quite the same when they are restored. We believe that eliminating or scaling back on programs should not be done unless absolutely necessary. With the availability of one-time funding and our reserves, we believe we are not at that tipping point for 2011-12. Given the assistance of our employees and the support of our governing board, we will continue to serve you and your students with an educational program of the highest caliber.
We have purposefully chosen not to panic or make draconian cuts, but please be assured that we are scrutinizing carefully all expenses and planning responsibly for the coming year and beyond. We are aware that, if the tide does not turn, 2012-13 and 2013-14 could be significantly more challenging. At the same time, we are heartened by the potential for modest improvements in property tax revenue on the near horizon and by recent public opinion research revealing that California voters will not support an all-cuts budget or more severe cuts to K-12 education.
Perhaps, though, one of the greatest causes for hope in the Fremont district is you. We feel exceptionally fortunate to be based in a community that values education and is unwilling to compromise on programs for kids. Most recently, you have demonstrated that support through passage of school bonds and renewal earlier this year of the parcel tax. The economic challenges are sure to continue, at least in the near term. As we meet the formidable challenges ahead, we are steadfast in our commitment to excellence in education for your students and those who will follow in their footsteps.
The district’s 2011-12 budget will be adopted at the June 21 board meeting and it will be posted on the district website at www.fuhsd.org Please feel free to visit the website periodically for additional updates as more information becomes available, and please accept our best wishes for a happy, restful summer.