School districts are not immune to the downturn in the economy and chaos in the financial markets.
Since educational funding comes primarily from the state, the current and looming deficit facing Arizona will most likely have a negative impact on school budgets. In Arizona, education comprises almost half of the overall state budget, and cuts are expected.
Challenging financial times are something that the Kyrene School District is quite familiar with. We have been in an era of declining enrollment and reduced revenues for almost 10 years. As a result, a number of strategies have been put into place to deal with current and future financial challenges. Therefore, we are prepared as well (if not better) than most school districts to deal with these issues.
Districts are allowed to carry over a certain amount of the budget to the following year, and this helps to offset revenue losses and increased expenses.
Kyrene has maximized this strategy each year through careful analysis and planning, and it continues to help keep the budget balanced each year. In addition, districts are allowed to pre-pay such expenses as insurance premiums and health care costs. This strategy has helped to keep the increased costs of these programs at more manageable levels.
The current situation requires some additional and stronger responses. The district has swept from 15 percent to 30 percent of unspent money (this school year) from departmental and school budgets.
These funds will be reserved to aid with any budget reductions that could occur. In addition, a number of programs are being analyzed to determine if changes can be made to reduce costs while still maintaining quality. It is expected that some savings will be realized from this work. Finally, I have asked the entire organization to contribute ideas to reduce overall expenses by 5 percent (about $5 million out of a $100 million budget).
Inadequate funding for education has been an issue in Arizona for many years. Low levels of funding that existed prior to the current crisis make it that much harder to manage during these more difficult times.
However, we will continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the district remains solvent and that schools continue to meet the learning needs of all students.
— Dr. Schauer is superintendent of the Kyrene School District