One method of determining how a school district is managing taxpayer dollars is to examine not only the bottom line, but some of the important details that contribute to financial health. When budgets for businesses and families are tight and when economic uncertainty is dominating our state and national headlines, school districts, I believe, owe it to their communities to be fiscally transparent. We, like everyone, feel the pinch at the gas pump; how to best budget for everything from books and burgers to buses. While student academic achievement is our ultimate “bottom line,” we can’t get there unless we effectively manage our resources.
Our school board, like others, bears ultimate responsibility for budgets and management of them, but the day-to-day management and accountability of our resources is largely determined by how effectively the leadership of the district, both at the district and school site levels, manages revenues and expenditures.
Here are some of the things we have done and are doing to effectively manage and stretch dollars:
This year we applied for and were awarded a $200,000 state energy savings grant. Of the dozens of districts that applied, the vast majority were rejected. We tied with one other district in receiving the highest grant award. This grant is allowing us to do more utility upgrades, supplementing our bond dollar upgrades. The net outcome will be a reduction in our utility bills to the tune of $177,000 annually. Because of these upgrades, we have also received a $109,000 rebate from APS.
Applying for federal and state grants for telecommunications/Internet is so time-intensive that many smaller districts have foregone going after funding. We have not. We expect, via rebates and grants, to generate more than $140,000 in funding/savings. Our Qwest settlement of $55,000 will actually lower (slightly) your tax rate.
Medicaid reimbursement is another paperwork nightmare that many districts have given up pursuing. The $67,000 we will recoup this year, we believe, is worth the effort and will strengthen our bottom line.
Specially awarded grants that directly support our students include: Positive Behavior (character development) — $31,000; School Safety Grant (our school resource officers) $201,000; Gear-up (a federal grant to increase the number of low income students who gain entry into college and receive scholarships) — $146,000. Each of these grants is competitive, meaning most schools/districts applying are not selected, and each grant is an annual amount.
Lastly, the construction projects funded by our $33 million bond, made possible by you, the citizens of Payson, continue forward both on schedule and under budget!
Maximizing and effectively managing our revenues and being vigilant with expenditures is a team effort. As a result of working well together, our semi-annual financial audits conducted by the state have, for many years, demonstrated exceptionally sound management of our resources and expenditures. Effective financial management at PUSD is also reflected in the fact that we are in the top third of all districts in the state for the percent of our budget that goes directly into the classroom. Our outstanding business office and district and site administrators are all doing their part to ensure that in tough times and in good times as well, we remain 100 percent accountable to you, the taxpayers. We are always looking for additional ways to improve efficiency and welcome your suggestions