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Wed, Dec. 11

PUSD awaiting state budget

PRESCOTT ­ The Arizona Legislature ­ which as of Wednesday had been in session for about 70 days longer than members planned for ­ still hasn't completed the state budget.

Personnel at the Prescott Unified School District(PUSD) are feeling that delay as they work to prepare the budget for the 2006-07 school year.

Renee Raskin, chief financial officer at the district, said law requires all districts to report to the state Department of Education and their respective county departments of education a final budget by July 15.

Before that, though, each district must present a proposed budget to its governing board, its voters and the state and county. After presenting the proposal to the board, the district must publish the proposal and then have a public hearing where voters can share their opinions about the proposal.

A story from the Associated Press states that the impending close of the current legislative session is one of the 10 latest dates for regular-session adjournment since 1912. So far, the session has lasted 150 days.

Raskin said she's waiting to hear from the state on several key numbers: per-student amounts, inflation rates, an increase in the transportation formula to make up for the law adding five days to the school year and extra money to make up for an increase in the monthly amount that comes out of employees' paychecks for the Arizona State Retirement System.

In addition, an even bigger issue for PUSD awaits decision along with the state budget.

An error on the part of someone in the district's human resources department caused a shortage in the district's Teacher Experience Index, a number the Department of Education uses to give extra money to school districts that employ a higher-than-average number of experienced or mature teachers.

Although the state allows districts to appeal their Teacher Experience Index numbers, PUSD didn't receive its notice regarding those numbers until the state's deadline for appeal had passed.

At the beginning of May, State Senate President Ken Bennett (R-Prescott) said he planned to attach a budget reconciliation bill to the state budget to make up for what otherwise would be a $635,000 shortfall.

The Teacher Experience Index money goes into the district's general fund, Raskin said.

Generally, the PUSD Governing Board approves a proposed budget at the second June board meeting. This year, that meeting is due for June 20.

However, Raskin said she usually has numbers from the state by this time each year. This is the latest she's ever received them.

A notice from the Department of Education states that department personnel will not extend the July deadlines for submitting proposed and adopted budgets, despite the late completion of the legislative session.

"It's nice to know where we stand," Raskin said.

"The proposed budget is not a small thing."

This year's budget is about $24.4 million.

Contact the reporter at hdartt@prescottaz.com

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