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Mon, May 20

PUSD budget is good to go

PRESCOTT – The Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) governing board Tuesday evening adopted the final version of the district's budget for next school year – after a long, drawn-out wait for the state legislators and governor Janet Napolitano to decide on the state budget.

The district's 2003-04 school year budget includes a student count up by almost 110 students. Growth money provides a sigh of relief for PUSD, which until the 2002-03 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 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 PUSD administrators 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, Kapp said.

For next year's budget, 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 operations money to give the 3-percent raise to district staff, which the board approved May 20.

Assistant superintendent Chris Reynolds said Tuesday the hiring process has gone well in the way of replacing staff members who retired, resigned or will take one-year leaves of absence. He said there are about 15 more openings at this time, and he will present his choices to fill those at next month's board meeting.

The PUSD governing board also approved:

• Allowing six children to enter kindergarten early – out of the 15 who went through assessment with PUSD, these are the six who assessment coordinator Colleen Ludwig deemed ready to enter kindergarten.

• A service agreement with Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) for Special Education Alternative Services (SEAS) for the 2003-04 school year. Director of special student services Craig Niece explained that PUSD will pay CVUSD $5,000 for each of three slots, which are special education students who school officials deem dangerous to other students will fill.

Niece said state and federal laws require districts to discipline students who misbehave, but also to provide free and appropriate education to special education students. Therefore, SEAS provides a learning place for special education students who get in trouble. CVUSD will provide the instructor and the instructional assistant for the program and PUSD will provide transportation for students who must attend SEAS.

Joan Fleming, PUSD board member and delegate to the recent Arizona School Boards Association's Delegate Assembly (ASBA), said the ASBA delegates voted to seek legislation that would pay for districts' sex education courses, should districts decide to offer them. The legislation would allow districts to choose what kinds of programs to offer (abstinence, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, prevention of pregnancy, etc.).

Fleming said the delegates voted to seek legislation to require developers to charge homebuyers impact fees in rural districts (such as PUSD). She explained that developers create homes, which brings more students into districts. Laws require districts to have small class sizes but do not provide money to attain them. ASBA delegates believe impact fees would help school districts accommodate growing numbers of students.

Kapp said that although the schools are closed, district staff are "gearing up" for the next school year, which begins Thursday, Aug. 7.

The PUSD governing board will meet again at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5, at the PUSD office, 146 S. Granite St. in Prescott.

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