Good News And Hard Times In Payson District

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Casey O'Brien

There are some good things to share about PUSD this week. Our Credit for Kids campaign was very successful. We took in just shy of $262,000. I wish to thank all of Payson for your generous support.

Our construction projects are moving along very well and thanks to a great working relationship with the Town of Payson we anticipate receiving certificates of occupancy for both RCMS and JRE on schedule.

These schools will be something our community can be very proud of. Another piece of good news is the results from our parent satisfaction survey; headlined in the Roundup last week. That we enjoy such strong parental support is reflective of a true partnership.

Lastly, we had our first meeting with our new PUSD governing board. Our district is fortunate to have board members who each bring unique strengths and share a deep commitment to support our kids and our employees.

Support will be critical in the challenging months ahead of us. I recently distributed a letter to all of our school employees. I thought it might be informative to share a portion of that letter with the community. It reads as follows:

State budget shortfall

I know that many of you are concerned about just what next year will bring. While we do not yet have specifics from our legislature, since I last sent a letter out in November, we do have more general information about our state budget. I think everyone knows that the news is not good. We are facing a shortfall in the state budget that is unprecedented. We also now have a more fiscally conservative legislature and an unknown in our incoming governor.

Last week I joined many of my superintendent colleagues at the legislature to speak with the media and with our legislators.

Our message was and is a simple one. We know that these are extraordinary times and we offer our expertise in helping solve the budget crisis in such a manner as to minimize the negative impact to public education. We asked legislators to consider the following:

School districts are a vital part of local economies, particularly in rural communities, and our schools are the fuel for future economies.

Any cuts to K-12 must be equitable for all school districts and charter schools.

Local control of budget adjustments is critical. We need autonomy and flexibility to manage any reductions in our funding.

Include revenue enhancements in the equation for achieving a balanced budget. Cuts in themselves may be inadequate or too severe to effectively solve the budget crisis.

At this point, I can offer no specifics with respect to our district’s budget for next year. That will be forthcoming once we understand the magnitude of impact to K-12 funding determined by the legislature. What I can tell you is that I will look to minimize the negative impact to our district and our most important asset, our employees.

I would encourage you to continue the great job you do and not give much credence to the inevitable rumors that may come more frequently in the days and weeks to come.

I will keep you informed and work diligently with our fine governing board to ensure we adopt measures that are the fairest, most equitable and in the best interest of our district.

Cut in school funding proposed

I was going to end my column with the prior sentence, but today Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee released its proposals to balance the 2009 and 2010 budgets.

We know we are in tough times; however, cutting K-12 funding by 20 percent, as proposed, would be catastrophic for the district and would take us many years to recover from. The quality of education for our children would suffer dramatically and not just in Payson, but across the entire state.

I would urge concerned parents and citizens to e-mail our representatives in Phoenix to strongly encourage them to not support cuts of this magnitude. Legislators’ e-mail links may be found at www.azleg.gov.

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