Scottsdale district closes budget gap

The Scottsdale Unified School District has proposed enough budget cuts to make up the $4.2 million gap it was facing and to produce enough savings to fund changes to the middle-school math program.

Originally, the 2014-15 budget deficit was about $9 million, but the district applied three funds to that: $2.8 million in carry forward, $1.6 million in court-ordered “inflation funding” from the state and $485,000 in performance pay because the district received an A grade from the state Department of Education.

That left a $4.2 million budget gap to be closed. The district’s proposals:

• Reducing art, music and physical-education classes, with the elimination of about 30 teaching jobs: $1.5 million

• Using money in the workers’ compensation fund: $1 million

• Eliminating several administrative and classified jobs: $850,000

• Using savings from a new process to hire back workers who have retired: $450,000

• Eliminating eight teaching jobs because of decreased enrollment: $400,000

• Saving money by closing the Tonalea Elementary School campus and shutting classrooms at other schools: $250,000

• Reducing bus routes: $200,000

All of those moves will not only close the gap but produce an additional $424,000 in savings, according to Dan O’Brien, chief financial officer for the district.

Scottsdale plans to use about $210,000 of it to improve the middle-school math program, adding a summer “bridge” course and reducing class sizes.

The other $214,000 is unallocated but could be used to help staff the new middle-school honors programs that will launch for 2014-15, O’Brien said.

Superintendent David Peterson said the transportation department worked to reduce routes and stops this spring. In January, the buses averaged 11,133 miles per day while transporting 5,205 students. In April, that daily mileage average was reduced to 9,399 even as student ridership increased to 5,549.

Lower fuel prices and reductions in overtime also have contributed to the savings in the transportation department, Peterson said.

O’Brien said that “carry forward” is money unspent from the previous year and is difficult to predict. When people leave their jobs, the positions may go unfilled for a time. Also, supply costs might decrease from what was budgeted. All of those savings create the “carry forward” fund.

The governing board will vote on the final budget in June.

District won’t present capital-override vote

The Scottsdale Unified School District will not ask voters to approve a capital override this fall, leaving the maintenance-and-operations override as the only initiative likely to be on the ballot.

The 15 percent maintenance-and-operations override would combine and renew two existing property taxes. Voters rejected that move the last two years, meaning that the property taxes have begun to reduce. That meant less revenue for the district, which has eliminated dozens of teaching jobs, raised class sizes and reduced art, music and physical education classes in the elementary grades.

The district also has a voter-approved capital override — a tax that generates $10 million a year to pay for technology, textbooks, furniture and other needs. The capital override, which cannot be used to pay for teacher salaries or classroom programs, is ending this year.

But in order to boost the chances of voters passing the maintenance and operations override, the district has decided to delay asking for a renewal of the capital-override tax.

A capital override may be placed on the ballot in November 2015, along with a $185 million construction bond to renovate the district’s elementary schools.

The governing board will vote in June on whether to put the maintenance-and-operations override on the ballot this November.

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