COTTONWOOD - In spite of all of the uncertainty faced during the last budget process - state funding, enrollment, a new International Baccalaureate Candidate school and even the structure of the school district itself - Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District is starting a new school year on solid ground with its current budget.
David Snyder, director of business services for the district, summarized the current budget for the Verde Independent.
One of the biggest factors affecting the district's budget was the loss of 180 students from the district from the 2010 school year to 2011. The state funding was set by the district's 100-day enrollment numbers in 2011.
Snyder explained that based on the 2011, 100-day count, the district's budget for FY 2012 was reduced more than $900,000 from the previous year.
"The district has anticipated this loss because of the promotion of a large 8th grade class, and the expectation of a small incoming kindergarten class as the district lost funding for all-day kindergarten and was forced to offer a half-day program," Snyder said.
The district met the budget reduction through several steps, Snyder explained. Those steps included elimination of administrative and support positions by closing Tavasci Elementary School; restructuring Oak Creek Elementary; restructuring of maintenance and custodial departments; elimination of the warehouse manager position and one business office position; and restructuring the nursing department to establish a district R.N. position and nurse aide positions at each campus.
"No classroom teacher positions were eliminated," Snyder said. "And the district has added an additional two classroom teachers due to increased enrollment this fall."
Snyder explained that the kindergarten program was enhanced to offer a full-day program, with instruction from a certified teacher for one-half day, and students receiving P.E., music class, computer instruction, and participation in teacher-designed learning centers for the balance of the school day.
"Class sizes for fiscal year 2012 are at optimum levels," Snyder said, "and our school buildings are full but not overflowing."
In addition to the impact of reduced student enrollment on the FY12 budget, Snyder pointed out that the state reduced the district's soft capital budget by $487,000 and its unrestricted capital budget by $219,000.
"Soft capital funds would normally be used to purchase items for the classroom such as computers and instructional aides such as workbooks," Snyder said. "Unrestricted capital funds are normally used to purchase capital equipment and do repairs and upgrades on district facilities."
Anticipating a reduction in those funds, the district curtailed capital projects in FY2011 and performed only preventative maintenance. According to Snyder, the district also limited soft capital expenses.
"Funds that were remaining from FY2011 have been carried into FY2012," Snyder said, "so the impact of the state budget reductions has been lessened."
The technology within the district did not take a budget hit because of a $450,000 grant the district received last school year. That grant was used to purchase computers for students.
Snyder listed some of the positive things the district has been able to accomplish even during the tight budget process.
Absorb increases in health insurance and not pass costs to employees.
Use Education Jobs funds for additional compensation for staff and bus drivers.
Use Sodexo Food Service guarantees for additional compensation to all district staff.
Prepay liability insurance for FY2013 in the amount of $150,000.
Carry forward reserve funds in excess if $400,000 from previous years.
Maintain the district's cash funds.
Keep important programs such as P.E., music, art and computer instruction.
Establish an International Baccalaureate Candidate school, and establish an Arizona I-Zone, a K-12 Online school.
Snyder feels good about the district's financial situation, given the economic and budget pressures being experienced by almost all districts in Arizona.
"As the district looks beyond FY2012," Snyder said, "we are poised to absorb any further state reductions without affecting the great programs we have developed, and continue to offer choices for the families of the Verde Valley."