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5:34 PM Mon, Nov. 19th

PUSD board likes look of its preliminary budget numbers<BR>

PRESCOTT – The Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) governing board kept busy Tuesday night, hiring two new administrators and approving the district's temporary budget proposal.

PUSD director of business services Renee Raskin presented the budget Tuesday evening – "the moment you all have been waiting for," she joked.

However, the board and district administrators really have been waiting for the state to finalize the budget. Legislators and Governor Janet Napolitano recently did, and things look good for PUSD. And it's almost final: the state has yet to reconcile average daily membership (ADM) counts with districts, and reserves the right to change student counts, upon which district budgets are based, until Sept. 15.

"So I may be bringing this back to you again," Raskin told the board. Although the budget Raskin presented is a proposal at this point, PUSD will publish it in The Daily Courier Sunday and then the board will vote on whether to approve the final budget at its July 7 meeting.

Raskin's proposed budget includes a student count up 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 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, 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 (like 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.

Dorrean Walker, Prescott High School (PHS) teacher and president of the Prescott Education Association, Tuesday thanked everyone involved in the budget-making process for their hard work and asked the board to consider using any extra money to give a raise other than what was given.

Principal search committees headed up by PUSD assistant superintendent Chris Reynolds selected three finalists for each of two positions: one, the principal position at Lincoln Elementary and the second, the assistant principal in charge of student services at PHS.

Superintendent Kevin Kapp said he was pleased to select each final candidate. Frank Lawhead, who has taught band at Prescott Mile High Middle School for the past 17 years, will take the helm at Lincoln.

Officially, the new PHS principal, Frances 'Totsy' McCraley, recommended former PHS social studies and in-school suspension teacher (four years) and most recently assistant principal at Bradshaw Mountain High School (two years) Don German, to take the assistant principal position at PHS. However, since McCraley, who will become PHS principal July 1, was moving from Yuma to Prescott Tuesday, Kapp made the recommendation to the board.

And while Reynolds said the district still needs to fill several open positions for next year, he added he is pleased to have filled so many already.

After publishing the tentative budget in The Daily Courier, the board will vote on a final budget at 6 p.m. July 8 at the PUSD office, 146 S. Granite St. in Prescott.

Contact the reporter at heller@prescottaz.com