Payson Schools Superintendent Casey O’Brien this week braced the school board for the possibility that our battered but valiant schools may face a third year of cutbacks — perhaps even another round of layoffs.
The district faces a potential $650,000 shortfall on a roughly $13 million operating budget, a reduction of about 5 percent. That’s not nearly as bad as last year’s $1 million, but it may nonetheless require wrenching choices in a district that has already cut past fat and deep into muscle.
The prospect seems maddening given the recent signs that Arizona’s economy is recovering and state revenues rising.
Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed a budget that would at least cushion the rain of blows on the state’s struggling school system. But the legislative leadership has balked, insisting that the state set aside an extra $500 million against the time next year when a temporary, one-cent sales tax surcharge expires.
Certainly we don’t envy the hard choices lawmakers have faced. We also support returning the state to sound budget practices, which includes developing adequate reserves and avoiding the temptation to spend in the boom and panic in the bust.
However, we hope the Legislature this year will take a chance on the recovery — and accept the governor’s budget proposals, thereby helping school districts now at their budgetary wits’ ends.
Moreover, we suspect that the slow pace of the recovery will require the extension of that one-cent sale tax to bolster schools and children’s services — a proposal already circulating in initiative form.
Although a 5-percent cut doesn’t sound dire, bear in mind that the reductions come on top of three years of increasingly painful choices. The school board not only closed Frontier Elementary School, it eliminated two dozen positions and increased elementary class sizes from about 22 per class to more like 30 per class. Our children and their teachers will pay the price for that reduction for years to come.
So we hope the Legislature will accept the governor’s budget quickly, so school districts throughout the state can plan for their own budgets carefully.
Nothing to do? No way
Anyone in the Rim Country who utters the words, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do” should get a kick in the backside — figuratively. This weekend alone, you won’t be able to spit without hitting an activity — once again, figuratively speaking.
There is a hike on the Peach Loop Trail through the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department’s Payson Area Trails System; there are 11 Little League games, plus opening ceremonies at North Rumsey Park’s Fields 2 and 3; the members of FFA are putting on a Family Rodeo at the Payson Event Center; and the parks department’s Youth Spring Soccer League starts next week, as do the equestrian events at PEC: barrel racing and pole bending practices, plus the Friday Night Barrel and Pole 4D Jackpot events.
Or you could go see a play — the Payson High School Drama Department’s spring musical continues with a matinee today (Friday) at four and a performance at 7 p.m., Saturday.
This is just a brief sample of possibilities for fun that await Rim residents of all ages. Little ones can still be signed up for T-ball until May 21. Coaches are needed too, and so are assistants.
At the end of the month, the Rim Country Classic Auto Club will once again present its fabulous Beeline Cruise-In Car Show.
Still bored? How about taking part in the Community Garden Project. There is a tremendous opportunity for families to do something wonderfully productive together this summer. Payson First Church of the Nazarene, 200 E. Tyler Parkway, has made available a portion of its property and will be working with the community to start a Community Garden beginning May 1.
Residents may rent a 6-foot-by-25-foot plot at $50 for the growing season. Keep the produce you need, put up some for the winter and donate any left over to the food banks. Go to the grand opening ceremony Saturday, April 29 to learn more and begin planting that day.
Then there are the area’s libraries. All have activities to offer children, teens and adults — it’s not all about the books.
Nothing to do? Don’t believe it.