With state budget through Capitol, E.V. schools know where they stand - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

With state budget through Capitol, E.V. schools know where they stand

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Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2011 2:51 pm

The Tempe Elementary School District may close schools. The Tempe Union High School District leadership hopes to give teachers a small stipend next year. Mesa Unified School District leaders know millions need to be cut.

Now that state lawmakers have passed a budget — and it’s received Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature — East Valley school leaders have the answer they’ve been waiting for: how much money is coming next year.

The final state budget cut $183 million from K-12 education funding. But what that means is very different for each district. That’s because some districts in the East Valley are also losing students — and dollars with them. And others have funds available from voter-approved overrides or contingency plans.

Discussion continues over ways to shave $3.6 million to $4.1 million in the Tempe elementary district. More than half of that — $2.5 million — is a decrease expected because of an expected 500-student loss. The governing board is expected to vote April 27 on a list of budget-cutting recommendations. Near or at the top of the list are school closings and school mergings, as well as increasing class sizes at some grades.

The Tempe high school district’s soon-to-be-retired superintendent Steve Adolph shared the budget outlook this week with staff at McClintock High School, the first of many meetings.

The district expects to have more kids than it’s had in its history, he said. Because of the student increase — about 800 more next year — and district initiatives, the district could have a surplus of about $1.8 million.

Adolph said he will recommend to the governing board on Wednesday that the district use most of that money to give a 2.75 percent stipend to every employee.

Gilbert leaders predict a $33,000 surplus for next year in the district. For the first time, the district also expects an enrollment loss; about 300 fewer children will be in Gilbert classrooms next year.

“When you’re talking about a $200 million budget, $30,000 is pretty balanced,” Superintendent Dave Allison told the governing board last week. “We’re in good shape with this budget. I’m not proposing any pay reduction or furlough days other school districts are looking at.”

Because of expected growth in the district and contingency plans, the Chandler Unified School District is preparing for $9.2 million in cuts to its $200 million maintenance and operations budget. About $5 million is new cuts, spokesman Terry Locke said, because the district already anticipated $4 million in cuts to Career Ladder funding as the state eliminates the program.

Some districts in the state receive Career Ladder funding that gives incentive pay to teachers and staff.

The Chandler district will use carryover and growth funds to help fill in for the budget cuts, Locke said. The district also hopes to give staff more money.

The Higley Unified School District is anticipating 200 more students next year, for a total of 10,400 students — but $4.4 million less in funding. This week, the district handed out pink slips known as reduction-in-force notices. Twenty-four full time positions are being eliminated next year.

Mesa Unified School District staff expects to give recommendations to its governing board later this month. The district is not only seeing a cut from the state, but anticipates 2,800 fewer students next year. That combination may mean up to a $23 million budget reduction.

All state school employees — and in fact all employees on the Arizona State Retirement System — will see more of their paychecks go into the retirement system beginning next year. State lawmakers changed the formula so employees now contribute 53 percent, rather than 50 percent, and employers pay 47 percent of the contribution.

But there’s no benefit to employers — in this case school districts — because the state took those funds, Chandler’s Locke said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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