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Tue, Aug. 20

PUSD budget drops by more than $9 million

PRESCOTT - Fewer students means fewer dollars, a fact facing the Prescott Unified School District (PUSD), as they prepare for the 2014-15 school year.

PUSD Governing Board members voted on Tuesday to approve their Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, and it's a much slimmer budget than the year before.

Board members approved 4-0 expenditures not to exceed $24,802,806, down $9,280,182 from last year's budget of $34,082,988, new PUSD Chief Financial Officer Kevin Dickerson said. PUSD board member John Mackin was not present for the July 8 meeting.

The shorter budget, which Dickerson attributed to a decline in overall student enrollment, will also lower the district's primary tax rate from 3.3750 to 3.3591. In April, the district reported a decline of approximately100 students last year when compared to PUSD's 2012-13 enrollment numbers.

At the beginning of the year, school officials partnered with Jennifer and Kent Fairbairn of High Country Venture Marketing for video advertising, print ads, social media and radio spots in an effort to promote the district and boost enrollment numbers in the coming years.

"The number one reason the tax rate dropped is because our student enrollment dropped. If you have less students, you're going to be allowed to spend less money," Dickerson said.

Funds from the district's 2014 capital budget, totaling approximately $900,000 were carried over into the new budget. Dickerson called the carryover the district's "rainy day" fund. Some of that money will be used to pay for a 3 percent raise for district staff beginning next year. Governing board members approved the raises, the first for district staff in seven years, in April.

"It is very common that we carry over some of those funds. We don't want to go back and do an emergency expense. We really like to plan," Dickerson said. "Overall we are the stewards of childhood education. That is and will always be our primary focus. Number two is the stewardship of our taxpayer dollars. We are trying to stretch our dollars at the school district just like everyone does at home."

Salaries and benefits, he explained, are always the biggest part of a school district's annual budget.

"It's very common that, statewide, 80 to 85 percent of a school's budget is personnel," Dickerson said.

In April, board members approved a number of cuts to the district schools in preparation for a trimmed down budget. At Prescott High School, as an example, cuts included two custodian positions, a science and biology teacher, a security guard, attendance clerk, English teacher, counselor and an ISS supervisor. At Prescott Mile High Middle School, cuts included positions for an eighth-grade teacher, a sixth-grade teacher and an attendance clerk. In the district office, cuts included tech support and IT director positions. Cuts were made in other district schools as well, school administrators said.

While the expenditure budget is titled as "FY15" for fiscal year 2015, it actually encompasses the 2014-15 school year, according to Dickerson.

Former PUSD Chief Financial Officer Renee Raskin, who left the position in May for a new role as chief deputy with the Yavapai County Education Service Agency, developed the approved budget.

Besides the expenditure budget document, now available on the PUSD website, a separate document details the district's revenue budget, which is based on student counts.

"We operate one year behind. What was used to calculate this budget was the actual student count during the last school year, the one we just finished," Dickerson said.

That student count, he explained, is called the "unweighted student count." Other students, depending on needs, are weighted differently, he said.

"It's all a state formula. If a student is diagnosed with autism or a hearing impairment, any of those kind of things; those all come to a weighted value," Dickerson said.

Budgets are also based on student transportation miles and federal funds, which include Title 1 money. Title 1 funds typically come from the free and reduced lunch program and the number of students, Dickerson explained.

For more information on the school district, visit their website at

Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier

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