Crowd hears tough details of Marana school budget - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Crowd hears tough details of Marana school budget

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Posted: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:19 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

An audience of perhaps 80 people came to Mountain View High School on Wednesday, listening to the gritty details of budgeting in the Marana Unified School District.

The district has reduced its spending by $8.6 million over the last two years, "a little over 10 percent" of its total general fund budget, Superintendent Dr. Doug Wilson told a forum sponsored by the Arizona Education Network and the Marana Foundation for Educational Excellence.

If Proposition 100, the three-year, 1 percent sales tax increase, passes on May 18, MUSD is cutting another $5.6 million from its current spending level. If the tax increase is defeated, that figure jumps to $10.3 million. The district has given 185 employees notice their jobs may be eliminated next school year. Among the affected jobs are those of custodians; MUSD is taking its custodial service to the private sector, at an estimated savings of $320,000 next school year.

"That was a difficult decision," Wilson said, because MUSD custodians are "residents of our community." Later, Wilson said "there hasn't been anything we haven't considered with regard to outsourcing."

The search for savings is ongoing. "Everyone's started to own the fact we have to be good stewards with the money the public has given to us," Wilson said.

To date, MUSD has "kept cuts out of the classroom" Wilson said. It imposed mandatory furlough days for support staff and administration, reduced 42.5 staff positions through attrition, purchased fuel on the futures market to save $750,000, reduced health insurance and travel costs, saved $80,000 in substitute teacher expenses during the fall semester, saved $50,000 on cellular telephone expenses with a new provider, and saved money on energy expenses.

Some of those savings are unavailable in the next fiscal year. Fuel costs, medical insurance expenses, unemployment insurance and utility rates are all going up, Wilson said.

Administratively, "this year, we've still continued to cut, but we have fewer people to cut," Wilson said. With further reductions at the administrative level, "some of the work would get shoveled onto our teachers."

Desert Winds, a K-3 school, and Picture Rocks, an intermediate grade 4-6 school, are adjacent to one another. Next year, they are going to share a principal, rather than each have their own. That saves $100,000. One principal would be transferred to DeGrazia Elementary School to fill a vacancy.

The district may look at increasing its student athletic fees from the current $35 per student at the high school level, and $30 at the middle school level, Wilson said. Details are not yet determined; any increases would require school board action, according to district spokeswoman Tamara Crawley.

Class sizes are being increased. With more children in a classroom, and aide positions reduced, "parent volunteers are needed now more than ever," particularly at the kindergarten level, Wilson told the group.

The district plans to utilize up to $2 million of its $4 million in cash reserves. "They're there in case of crisis," as rainy-day funds, Wilson said. "I don't know if it's ever been raining as hard as it is right now in Arizona."

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