Finances prove a juggling act as funding remains up in air

Finances prove a juggling act as funding remains up in air

Juggling requires keen hand-and-eye coordination—a glance away and a ball drops to the ground. The juggler gets frustrated and the audience, well, sometimes boos.

So it goes, too, for school districts that are trying to successfully budget. One eye needs to be on the allocations from the state legislature, another on revenues from property taxes—and, in the schools’ case, yet another on the sale of bonds.

It’s enough to make Kyrene’s chief financial officer, Jeremy Calles, slightly cross-eyed.

While keeping watch on the revenue streams and financial obligations of the school district, Calles also tracks the multitude of decisions by the state legislature that impact his and other Arizona districts.

The current legislative session opened mid-January and is scheduled to last 100 business days, but generally runs much longer.

During this session, Calles is hopeful that a bill will move forward to allow Kyrene to the sell bonds that area voters approved in 2010. The bill, introduced but never heard in the last session, left the district unable to address its capital-budget needs.

If approved in this year’s legislative session, proceeds from the bond sale would be used for maintenance at all 26 Kyrene schools.

To make Calles’ juggling act all the more difficult, the announcement of an $81 million allocation to school districts, approved only recently by the legislature, is actually just now restoring what is known as “inflation funding”—money that assists schools as a cost-of-living increase per pupil. That allocation amounts to about 2 percent, according to Calles.

“This ruling was a victory for school districts, and we all appreciate the efforts made that led to this outcome,” said Calles.

“However,” he noted, “we want to make sure the community knows that this ruling didn’t dictate that the legislature has to make amends retroactively for all the years when (school) districts didn’t receive the inflation increase.”

Calles anticipates that Kyrene’s portion of the statewide $81 million should represent an injection of about $1.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

That inflation funding is not due to reach the school districts until July, though, and the distribution of the money still faces a legal battle as state Atty. Gen. Tom Horne has said he plans to challenge the ruling in the Arizona Supreme Court.

“Even if the inflation funding reaches Kyrene, it will not be soon enough to reverse the district’s current budget shortfall of about $8.9 million,” said Calles, “so that correction needs to be made before this fiscal year closes on June 30.”

As a result of the current situation, the funding shortfall will stay and the district remains concerned about having enough money to implement the Common Core mandate, which requires additional technology and  training for all teachers.

Gov, Brewer’s budget, announced Jan. 18, does include some funds for Common Core implementation, but it is too soon to know the exact dollar amount for each school district, according to Calles, who has promised to make regular financial updates at the district’s governing board meetings.

Kyrene residents and parents who wish to help should contact the Governor’s Office to make sure she keeps her focus on education.

As more information becomes available, it will be available on the district website at www.kyrene.org.

 

Diana Whittle

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