Our own Tommie Martin and Supervisors Dawson and Pastor, stepped up to the plate and hit a home run for local school districts this past Tuesday. By voting to allocate Federal Forest Fees to the school districts, based on a formula submitted by the district superintendents of Gila County, they have brought some sunshine into a pretty gloomy financial forecast. PUSD is grateful for their courageous support of our students and schools.
As I have shared with the community, the “proposed” cuts to education for next year by
the Arizona Legislature’s Appropriations Committee are close to $2 million for PUSD. Add to that the loss of one-third of our override and a slight decrease in our enrollment, the potential shortfall is a little more than $2.4 million for the 2009-10 school year. That’s 18 percent and that’s potentially devastating. What the final cut to our next year’s budget will be, I cannot yet say, but the $541,000 in Forest Fees for this fiscal year, will be held in reserve to help to offset cuts.
Federal stimulus dollars will also help. The details have not yet emerged, but the arrival of these dollars in July, combined with (hopefully) a continued allotment of the Forest Fees over the next three years, could greatly soften the blow to programs and personnel.
The largest variable in this financial equation is our own legislature and governor and how deeply they cut. My hope is that short-term budgetary solutions are not made by sacrificing the long-term stability of public education in Arizona. The next several weeks will determine our district’s future for several years to come. Fortunately, thanks to the Gila County Board of Supervisors, our burden became a little bit more manageable. As Arizona and Payson try to regain their financial footholds, we now have an increased ability to sustain our district and provide for our students.
Our elected officials hear plenty of griping. I understand; that comes with the job. In this case, on behalf of our kids and our employees, I would like to extend my thanks and a pat on the back. They didn’t have to put kids so generously first in their apportionment of the fees, but they did. Let’s hope our state legislators take their lead in prioritizing our children’s future.