Fresno’s three biggest school districts are in the final throes of preparing and approving budgets for the 2023-24 school year that will include an estimated 8.13% cost of living adjustment and millions of dollars more for salaries and benefits.
Clovis Unified School Board is scheduled to adopt its $854 million annual budget at Wednesday’s board meeting. Central and Fresno trustees will hold public hearings at their meetings Tuesday and Wednesday nights and approve their budgets later this month.
School districts are required to have budgets adopted by June 30.
Fresno’s proposed budget would balloon to $2.3 billion, almost $300 million higher than the current annual budget. Most of that increase is due to a big increase in the general fund, which will climb to $1.8 billion compared to this year’s budgeted $1.5 billion.
The district is targeting $152.9 million for “pandemic learning and recovery” and textbooks. Proposed staffing increases include adding 43 teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools for arts and music expansion, five choral accompanist assistants, a school counselor, two career education counselors, three senior high teachers, 14 nutrition services assistants, nine school nurses, 15 literacy coaches, three custodial services supervisors, nine custodians, seven grounds maintenance workers, and five high school plant supervisors.
The district is still in the midst of negotiating a new contract with its biggest labor group, the Fresno Teachers Association, which is threatening to consider a strike vote if there is no contract by Sept. 29.
One budget area that is seeing a significant decrease is the health fund, which will drop to $189 million from $200.7 million budgeted for this year. The district self-funds health insurance for employees, which is overseen by the Joint Health Management Board.
Fresno Unified’s public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled to begin at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, but start times are estimates. The open session of the board meeting, which will be held in the downtown Education Center at M and Tulare streets, is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Clovis Unified’s proposed annual budget would total $854 million, about $11 million smaller than this year’s annual budget. The bulk of it would be the general fund’s $644 million, about $21 million lower than the current budget year.
In the proposed general fund budget, salaries for certificated and classified employees would total $348.7 million, an increase of $5 million over the 2022-23 third-quarter actual expenditures. Benefits would total $184.6 million, a hike of nearly $5 million over the third-quarter expenditures, while books and supplies would total $52 million, a drop of $2.4 million.
The district is proposing to increase annual spending in the cafeteria fund, up to $20.9 million, double the spending in the special reserve for capital projects up to $2.9 million, and add about $4 million to the self-insurance fund, raising the total to $84.2 million.
Clovis’ general fund expenditures will be equal to $15,039 per student. The district notes in its budget documents that it receives less funding than every other district in Fresno County. The state shifts funds to districts with higher numbers of students who are disadvantaged, English learners, homeless, or in foster homes. The threshold to receive the extra funding is 55% of the student population, but Clovis has 48% and is ineligible.
The open session of the Clovis board meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and will be held in the Professional Development Building, 1680 David E. Cook Way, Clovis.
Central Unified’s proposed total budget would climb to $414 million, of which $297 million would be for the general fund that covers salaries and benefits, books and supplies and other costs. The remainder of the budget is in other funds that include building, bond, and self-insurance funds.
The biggest boost in the general fund would be for books and supplies, with $44.3 million in the proposed budget compared to $9.3 million budgeted in the current year. The budget also would hike salaries and benefits by about $27 million for a total of $204.1 million compared to the current year’s budget of $177.9 million.
The proposed budget would include funds to add a bilingual family liaison at each school site, two more campus safety liaisons and a supervisor, employ intervention counselors at each school site, and maintain funding for English language teachers and instructional aides at high-need sites, and for kindergarten and special education full-time instructional aides.
Other funds in the proposed budget would total $117 million compared to nearly $55 million in the current year’s approved budget. The biggest hike is $43,026,479 for the building fund, a hefty increase over the $3,033,469 budgeted for the current year.
The open session of Central’s board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Central East High School Performing Arts Center, 3535 N. Cornelia Ave., Fresno.