District School Budget Will Sustain, Not Increase


While state legislators passed their budget Thursday as the June 30 deadline closed in, officials in the Payson Unified School District still had a responsibility to set their budget.

Payson school district officials are expected to pass their fiscal year 2009 budget during the July board meeting. The school district still has not finished its budget, but will by its July meeting.

"We have to set our budget now, and then if there are any adjustments, (those) are made later on," said Superintendent Casey O'Brien earlier in the week.

"It's not the first time in Arizona (it came) down to the wire."

The state needed to pass its budget by June 30, the end of fiscal year 2008.

John Hartsell, spokesperson for Arizona Education Association, said the Senate and House passed a budget Thursday that included no cuts for public education.

Hartsell was pleased with the largely intact education funding.

The Senate's version included a moratorium on new school construction. The measure would affect supplemental money doled to districts.

O'Brien said, "that would not affect any of our projects."

"Right now I'm pretty optimistic," O'Brien said Thursday, before the budget passed.

The Arizona Legislature all but guarantees the district roughly 86 percent of its maintenance and operations budget, which O'Brien said is a significant portion of the district's overall budget.

"It would take an unprecedented move by the legislature to change that, and no one has mentioned that at all," he said.

Next year's district budget, while not "robust," and without room for major additions, still sits flush enough to avoid cutbacks.

The funds for supplies, like textbooks, all "not on the chopping block," O'Brien said.

Of course, the district is still unsure of 2009's exact numbers. "We may be having to look at some other adjustments," O'Brien said.

Financial adjustments are not unprecedented. Some years, the legislature changes numbers in September or October, leaving the district to change its own.

"That's where having a really skilled business manager comes into play," O'Brien said.

Entering a year with record gas prices and rising costs for supplies and health insurance, O'Brien said the district can, for now, absorb the cost.

"I don't want to make it seem like it's not a burden, because we feel the increase just as individuals feel the increase," he said.

"We're not looking at a four-day week. That seemed to be a hot topic of conversation." O'Brien said he was unaware of any districts resorting to the reduction.

"If fuel prices continue to go up, I wouldn't exclude putting that on the table, but it would have to be significantly higher."

The budget override soon set to expire helps maintain school programs amidst economic turmoil, O'Brien said. Voters will decide to renew the approximately $1.3 million override in the November election.

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