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Sun, Dec. 08

PUSD board hopes to approve final budget at Tuesday meeting

PRESCOTT – After a public hearing and a governing board vote, the Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) anticipates having a budget in place on Tuesday.

At the board's June 24 special session, PUSD's director of business services, Renee Raskin, presented a proposed budget, which the board approved. The district then published the tentative budget and on Tuesday evening will hear public opinions and then vote on whether to approve the budget as final.

Raskin's proposed budget includes a student count that is up by almost 110. Growth money has provided a sigh of relief for PUSD, which until this past school year had lost students continually. (Student count numbers for next year's budget were taken from the 100th day of this past school year.) PUSD's weighted student count for the 2003-04 school year budget is about 5,716 students.

At the state level, legislators and Gov. Janet Napolitano agreed not to cut the 2-percent inflation factor or the teacher experience index (TEI), and not to make cuts to districts whose administrative costs were not at least 10 percent lower than the state average. PUSD will get the 2 percent, which Raskin did not previously count on. It will also get TEI, which is 1.0664 (with the state average at an even 1).

PUSD's administrative costs were 8 percent lower than the state average, but the previously proposed cut for administrative costs would have cost the district $50,000.

PUSD's proposed 2003-04 budget includes total expenditures of around $21.7 million, a 5.5-percent increase over the 2002-03 expenditures, which were around $20.6 million.

Of the maintenance and operations budget expenditures, 63 percent will go toward classroom instruction. Napolitano's goal for each district in Arizona was 62 percent, Superintendent Kevin Kapp said.

Overall, Raskin said she is pleased with the way the 2003-04 school year budget looks. Growth money helped pay for many one-time expenses (such as the high number of buy-out participants and higher utilities costs), freeing up regular maintenance and operation money to give the 3-percent raise to district staff, which the board approved May 20.

The board will also consider and vote on whether to approve:

• Granting or denying 15 children early entrance into PUSD kindergarten. According to information in the board briefing packet, PUSD tested those children for readiness and found them ready academically, emotionally, socially and developmentally for kindergarten.

• Entering into a service agreement with the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) for special education alternative services for the 2003-04 school year. PUSD hosted the program, which provides required educational services for primarily high school special education students who cannot attend their regular school for disciplinary reasons, for the past several years at the Dexter Family Resource Center.

PUSD approached CVUSD with regard to hosting the program for the two districts, plus Mayer Unified and Humboldt Unified next year and perhaps for a time after that. Because the program requires significant administrative support, different districts sharing the responsibility "would seem beneficial to all parties," according to the board briefing packet.

The combined study and voting session will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the PUSD office, 146 S. Granite St. Prescott.

Contact the reporter at heller@prescottaz.com

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