A year after the Gilbert Unified School District governing board froze some staffing and cut programs, budgeting took a turn for the better for the 2003-04 school year — but not until after some tense moments.
After waiting to begin the budget process on the hope voters would approve a 6 percent increase in the district’s budget override in May — which they did — the board approved a tentative budget Tuesday of $249 million.
The override provides $7 million in additional property tax revenue that will cover a 3.2 percent increase in the retirement contribution rate and allow teachers to qualify for 2 percent raises as well as maintain their benefits, administrators said. The district expects to hire about 200 teachers this year.
"If the public body had not passed the override, we would have been hurting and having a difficult time," said Clyde Dangerfield, assistant superintendent of business services. "But it doesn’t make everything rosy. I think we’re off to a good start this year."
While two empty administrative positions, including the assistant principal spot for Highland High School, will remain frozen, as will administrative salaries for the second year, the budgeting process is in sharp contrast to last year’s budget cutting. Then, the district could not hire new custodians for new schools and instituted a new student athletic fee.
The 2003-04 budget includes an estimated $800,000 from revenue American Indian casinos will share on gambling proceeds based on Prop. 202. Final budget approval is expected after a 10 a.m. July 14 public hearing in the educational complex, 140 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert.
Board president Helen Hollands applauded the board and staff for maintaining conservative budgets in the past that allowed the district to wait until harsh economic times to ask for the additional 6 percent override.
"We did it without sacrificing the classroom," she said.