Fri, Feb. 28

Federal stimulus would help local schools
Will not offset state cuts to education

County Superintendent Tim Carter

County Superintendent Tim Carter

Public school districts in the Verde Valley, as well as throughout Arizona, are faced with severe budget cuts coming from the state. Those cuts will affect the remainder of the current fiscal year, but they are expected to be even deeper for the next fiscal year.

The proposed federal stimulus package - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - would help schools with grants to education.

Last week, during a joint session of all Verde Valley school districts' administrators and board members, Yavapai County Superintendent Tim Carter told the attendees that the federal bailout money would not offset the cuts coming from the state.

Even so, the grants that have been proposed would give some desperately needed relief to area schools.

Although the federal stimulus has not been approved yet, estimated allocations to all of Arizona's school districts have been published. The grants would come in three categories: Title-I, Construction and IDEA (special education).

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District could receive grants, in 2009, for Title-I, an increase of $192,400; for construction, $707,800; for special education, an increase of $298,400. The total for 2009 would be $1,198,600. The proposed grants for C-OC for 2010 would be Title-I, $192,400 and special education, $361,800 for a total of $554,200. The two-year total for C-OC would be $1,752,800.

C-OC Superintendent Barbara U'Ren explained that funds from Title-I grants are restricted in how they can be used. Those monies must be used for programs designed to help "academically-at-risk" students. She said the district currently receives about $500,000 in Title-I funds. The grants for Title-I under the stimulus package would be an increase.

"You cannot hire classroom teachers," said U'Ren, giving an example of how Title-I money is restricted. "That's supplanting."

She said Title-I money would allow the district to hire teachers for small groups of at-risk students. "It will be a great help for us," she said.

The construction grant, which will be one-time grant, allows districts more leeway in how it is used.

"There are a number of ways we can utilize the monies," U'Ren said. Large projects, such as building classrooms, would have to be planned and approved by the governing board.

U'Ren said some of that construction money could be used for retrofitting and renovation. She gave the example of replacing outdated electrical equipment and supplies to achieve more energy efficiency.

C-OC District is always struggling with funding for special education, according to U'Ren. Although she doesn't want the district to become dependent on the special education grant money because she knows it won't last, she will welcome the grants. "It will help," U'Ren said. "It will give us a two-year grace period."

Mingus Union High School would receive in 2009 for Title-I, an increase of $80,400; for construction, $305,100; for special education, an increase of $134,000. The total for the remainder of the current fiscal year would be $519,400.

In 2010, MUHS would receive an additional $242,800 total. The amounts would be $80,400 for Title-I and $162,500 for special education. The two-year total under the federal grants for MUHS would be $762,300.

Kirk Waddle, business director for MUHS, said the stimulus package won't help with the overall budget cuts from the state, but would help with the restricted programs for which they are earmarked.

"The construction one will help a lot," Waddle said. "Our preference is to use local vendors." The use of locally preferred vendors is somewhat restricted by procurement procedures.

Waddle said the federal construction grant might be used with the money from the district's current bond for the renovation project. "There are some projects listed to be done with leftover bond money," he said.

There are plenty of other projects the district could use the federal grant money on. "Our parking lots need to be resurfaced," Waddle said, as only one example of work the district needs.

Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary District could receive, for 2009, an increase of $14,000 for Title-I; $55,000 for construction; and an increase of $27,600 for special education. The total for 2009 would be $96,600.

The 2010 grants for Clarkdale-Jerome would be $14,000 for Title-I and $33,500 for special education. The 2010 total would be $47,500, giving the district a two-year total of $144,100.

Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor said the construction money would be used for renovation. "We have a long-term plan," she said. "It's a seven year plan of things that need to be done."

Fleenor said work has been done on the plan, such as new carpet for two classrooms each year, and the district is now replacing old heaters.

"It's up to the board," Fleenor said, "but we would have to look through that plan. The one thing that hasn't been done is the roofing."

At Camp Verde Unified School District, the total amount for 2009 could be $956,200, with an increase in Title I of $189,300; construction, $589,200; and an increase in special education of $177,700. In 2010 the total could be $404,700, with Title I at $189,300 and special education at $215,400. The two-year total for Camp Verde would be $1,361,000.

Camp Verde Superintendent Jeff Van Handel said the construction grant would likely be used to repair roofs within the district. "I've not seen the rules of using the construction funds," Van Handel said. But if the rules allow the money to be used on roofs, that's probably where some of it will go.

Van Handel said the Arizona School Facilities Board will not allocate money for roofs until a roof completely fails.

He said if the money is used for roof projects, the district might use the federal stimulus grant to leverage an even bigger project. While roofs are being repaired would be the right time to install conduits and support structures to hold up solar panels.

If the estimated allocations hold true, Beaver Creek Elementary District would receive $21,700 in increased Title-I funds; $86,500 for construction; and $45,500 in increased special education funds. The 2009 total would be $153,700.

Next year, Beaver Creek could receive $21,700 for Title-I and $55,100 for special education, making the 2010 total $76,900. The two-year total would be $230,600.

Superintendent Karin Ward said the $86,500 for construction would be very helpful but wouldn't go very far. "I actually have a list on my wall of all the projects," she said.

Ward said a new gym ceiling, at around $30,000, would be a high priority.

"We have rooms that need to be carpeted," Ward said. "There are so many things."

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