Visalia Unified board confident in budget

The VUSD Board of Education members look forward to a bright future despite a budget deficit of $5.28 million. The need for competitive education in the Valley and in Visalia itself was a major concern at the special meeting on December 3 in Visalia.

With an unexpected addition of 313 students, the addition of Denton Elementary School in Visalia was a much needed factor in bringing in additional revenue, according to Trustee Niessen Foster.

Presenter and Chief Financial Officer Nathan Hernandez put these numbers into perspective at the meeting,.”This district is doing better in reserves than previous administrations,” he said. “The deficit is around 2% of the budget which is better than what the Fed is doing. Our fiscal condition is doing well and our administrators are doing their jobs.”

“The board has committed to covering this deficit with reserves in this 2019-20 fiscal year and we are working on recommendations to bring to the Board for their consideration to close that gap,” said Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Robert Groeber. “We will bring a balanced budget forward to the Board in June for the 2020-21 fiscal year.”

Teachers Union President Greg Price said, “We performed a joint study with the district and unions that shows we are at the top of the bottom third performance-wise. Our teachers are working very hard past their hours so we need to be competitive. It’s all about the kids. Everything will follow if you support the kids,” he said.

“The district needs to keep and retain high quality teachers. As our salary schedule lags behind some other local districts, I feel it is necessary for the district to not only give a cost of living raise each year, but a “catch up” (bonus increase) to help us catch up with those other districts. We are losing teachers to other districts due to salary differences,” said Certified Health Education Specialist and teacher at Golden West High School, Dave Rodgers.

Rogers added, “In my 26 years, I would rather have smaller class sizes and a simple raise than a large raise and then large class sizes that would be sure to follow to make up for the large raise. No teacher enters teaching for the money, but paying us a living, compatible wage is necessary to retain, attract, and keep excellent teachers. Keeping them is by far our most pressing issue. We lose 50% of new teachers in the first five years. This is alarming.”

Several trustees agreed that Interim Superintendent Tamara Ravalin is the most transparent and competent administrator they have had in years.

“We think you are doing a great job,” responded Board President and Area 4 Trustee John L. Crabtree. “We are here to keep our administration honest.”

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