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8:49 AM Sat, Sept. 22nd

HUSD turns to personnel cuts for budget deficit fix

"We are not going to get any relief there," Waddle said. "In fact, it has actually increased a little."

Health insurance is another major expense for the district and, based on past experience, the district has projected that health insurance premiums will increase by 25 percent, which approximates $450,000.

Waddle said there has been some indication that the cost of the current plan may not increase as much as the district has projected. HUSD has been working with other government agencies and school districts in the area to try to shift them into the same health insurance trust in order to keep such costs down.

By establishing an early retirement incentive program for those employees who have had at least 10 years of consecutive service with HUSD, the district hopes to save about $50,000.

"We have about 75 employees who are eligible for this (program)," Short said, adding that about 15 staff members expressed interest in it.

Waddle said the district would have the option on how to replace employees in that category. Based on the HUSD teachers' salary schedule, the district pays more money to those teachers who have more experience and more education.

"On average, we'll try to bring in a teacher with one to three years of experience," he said.

In addition, the district has already reduced its copy management contract costs by $24,000, Waddle said, and district will bid in July to try to cut those costs further.

"(We'll do) either that or I'll not replace them (copy machines) and make do with what we've got," he said. "That is a good way to cut half of that cost."

The district estimates that it stands to save at least $94,000 in workers' compensation insurance expenses next year.

Waddle said most of these projections are holding pretty constant.

"The big unknown is the early retirement program as well as health insurance," he said.

The district is also seeking ways to bring more money into its capital fund. A sale of the old district office in Dewey would bring more than $200,000 to the district, Short said.

"Our goal is to sell it before the end of the fiscal year," Waddle added.

The district also owns 75 acre-feet of water rights in the Dewey area. The Town of Prescott Valley has expressed an interest in purchasing those water rights for $112,000. In addition, the district plans to sell 20 acres of its land back to the Viewpoint developer, who allocated that property for a possible school site.

"They'll get the property back and we'll get the money from the cost of the property," Waddle said.

Short said it is hard to say when HUSD will resolve all of its financial difficulties.

"I always define the recovery period by how long it took to get this way," he said, adding that this recovery plan is a start.

Contact Mirsada Buric-Adam at mburicadam@prescottaz.com

or 445-8179, ext. 1099.