While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s recently passed budget will have little effect on the town governments in Marana and Oro Valley, the local school districts are anticipating at least some impact.
For the Amphitheater School District, the earliest of those impacts has already come as a result of the state budget’s delayed approval as members of the House and Senate debated Medicaid expansion in Arizona, until its eventual passage at the state capitol in mid-June.
That delay forced some hardships on the district, as state law requires school districts to have a budget completed and adopted by July 15.
“During the Governing Board regular meeting on July 2, we have a study/action item concerning adoption of the budget for fiscal year 2013-2014,” said Amphitheater’s Director of Community Relations, Mindy Blake. “I do know it will not be accurate, and will have to be amended simply because of the timing of the Arizona budget adoption. Amphitheater Public Schools had to propose a budget without knowing what the legislature’s funding would be.”
Blake adds that the school district is usually working on its budget process in February or March.
While the Marana Unified School District did not see as much of an impact, it did have to revise the usual method in which it finalizes its
budgeting forms, according to Chief Financial Officer Dan Contorno.
But, for both districts, there are also some potential perks that could come with the new budget, though that money will take some time to trickle down from the state level.
Those potential funds include about $3.5 million in funding to enhance school safety. Brewer’s budget calls for the hiring of 100 new school resource officers, but not all of that $3.5 million will apply directly toward officers, says Blake.
“Twenty five percent of the $3.5 million has to be used for technology – things like cameras and electronic door locks,” said Blake. “We are encouraged there is recognition that schools do need funding for this kind of thing.”
There are still questions to be answered as far as how that funding will be implemented, though.
“At this point, those dollars are at the state level and have not yet been allocated to the school district,” said Tamara Crawley, Marana school district’s director of community relations. “
Word has not yet reached the Amphitheater district, either.
“We have no explanation at this time how we will receive the funds, or what the process will be to determine how much we will get, if anything,” said Blake.
The budget also addresses a long-awaited issue by increasing per-student funding.
This year, the state’s base level of funding per student is $3,326.54, an increase of $58.82 per student over last year, though that number is increased each year by the districts through such things as property tax, federal and state grants, and other resources, bringing the funding closer to $7,830 per student – which is still fourth worst in the nation according to governing.com.
Marana will see an additional 1.8 percent, or $1 million in state funding in the coming year, money Contorno says will be used toward personnel.
While such examples are an improvement over years past, there is still some making up to do after years of education cuts greatly affected both districts.
“This year’s per-pupil funding does not overcome years of cuts,” said Blake. “It is a movement in the right direction, but we are so far behind in funding from years of neglect. With five years of cuts, our override vote in November of 2014 is going to be very important.”
By state law, there are strict limits on the amount of money that school districts can spend to educate students, she adds.
“An override allows school districts to receive additional tax revenues beyond those that the state provides,” Blake said.
Voters in a school district must approve an override, which can come in different forms: kindergarten through third grade, capital, and maintenance and operations.
“Currently, the majority of school districts in the State of Arizona have some kind of override,” said Blake.
The governor’s approved budget also calls for additional funding, to the tune of $36 million, to reward academic achievement and improvement for Arizona schools.
Achievement funding would be allocated based on the performance of students, with more funds available to higher achieving schools, with a maximum of $500 per pupil.
Improvement funding, which also caps at $500 per student, would offer funding to districts and charters by scoring above their current five-year performance results. Improvement payments will be higher for lower-performing schools.
With the near-extinction of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS), $61.5 million will be allocated to schools to implement Common Core Standards, a new set of mandated academic standards in English language arts and mathematics.