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3/6/2013 11:55:00 AM
HUSD considers option to charter schools for more revenue
A history of HUSD finances, budget cuts
After this year's 100-day count indicating a loss of 100 students, the district will lose a about $400,000 in revenue.

In addition to revenue loss from declining enrollment over the past five years, the district has lost money because of decisions made by state legislators. These include a decrease in M&O revenue - now less than it was five years ago - elimination of the 2 percent inflation adjustment, no soft capital money ($3.5 million), reduced unrestricted capital ($1.2 million), elimination of building renewal funds ($3.1 million), no additional utility funding ($500,000 per year), no full-day kindergarten money ($1.1 million), and declining Teacher Experience Index money as veteran teachers retire ($500,000 per year). Including declining enrollment, this adds up to a loss of revenue of about $10 million over the past five years.

The district has taken the following measures to reduce the budget.

At the middle schools, the district eliminated assistant principals, counseling and library staff. At the elementary schools, it eliminated free full-day kindergarten, and library staff. The high school eliminated copy center staff.

The district eliminated performance pay for its administrators and principals. It reduced special education and English Language Learners teachers and aides, district office support staff, custodial and maintenance staff, elementary music staff, and teaching staff through attrition and reduction in force - RIF.

In addition to personnel, the district has reduced administrative cell phones, supply budgets, and building maintenance efforts. It revised its stipend pay schedule, increased pay-to-play fees for athletics, and increased class sizes.

In spite of the cuts and reductions, HUSD student AIMS scores exceeded both similar-sized peer districts and state averages. The administration operates in the Very Low range with costs 26 percent lower per pupil than peer districts or state averages. Plant operations, food services and transportation also operate in the Very Low and Low ranges in comparison to peer districts and the state.

The district has covered some deficits in the budget over the years by using its reserves, but it cannot continue to do so as the reserve funds are dwindling, said HUSD Finance Director Cynthia Windham.

"Using cuts and reserves might help for the next several years, but it will run out eventually," she said.

Facing the district is an increase in expenditure for Arizona State Retirement System and increased health insurance. It will receive some revenue through renting the former district office building and cell towers, E-Rate funds, staff realignment (paid through sources other than M&O), and energy savings through use of solar power.

A decrease in staffing based on reduced student enrollment will save the district $655,000; a change in middle school pay-to play will bring in $35,525; supplies reduction of 10 percent at each school site, $40,000; health insurance change in deductible saves $225,000; limiting allowable substitutes per site is $50,000.

These changes and cuts move the deficit from $1.5 million to $463,720. Windham said using money from reserves would cover that amount, although there are still some unknowns to figure in.

"We've done just about everything we can think of," she said.

Sue Tone

Correction: The March 6, 2013, article, 'HUSD considers option to charter schools for more revenue,' in the Prescott Valley Tribune, stated the Humboldt Unified School District governing board "created the position of Director of Information Technology and added an Information Systems Help Desk Technician with a beginning salary of $50,000." The director's position begins at $50,000; the Help Desk technician position pays $12.28/hour.

The Director of IT's position replaces the Lead Information Systems Specialist position. Because of the workload and overtime pay this past year, the change will result in a savings to the district, reports Dan Streeter, director of Human Resources.

A loss of $10 million in revenue for the Humboldt Unified School District over the past five years is prompting the governing board's consideration of chartering one or more of its schools.

Facing another tough budget year, the district is looking into "alternative funding opportunities" that include a maintenance and operations override and/or district-sponsored charter schools. The override option would need voters' approval. Converting district schools to district-sponsored schools would bring additional funding of $1,400 per student. The state currently provides about $4,000 per student, but charter schools receive about $5,400 per student.

HUSD Supt. Paul Stanton told board members at a special meeting this past Thursday that chartering a school would not impact employees in terms of compensation, contractual status or retirement. Also, since the district would still oversee its charter schools, the same requirements for teacher certification would apply.

The extra revenue from a charter school would be spread out to all district schools, Stanton said. The extra money could give schools an opportunity to implement or enhance a "signature" program, similar to magnet schools that provide emphasis in science and math, or fine arts, in addition to standard curriculum requirements.

Bradshaw Mountain High School cannot be considered for chartering because a district must have two schools with the same grade levels in order to make one a charter. Chartering also is not applicable to Granville Elementary School because the Arizona State Facilities Board contributed money to build it.

The ASFB would not allocate money for building renewal to a chartered school, so the district would want to choose a school that has few needed repairs, Stanton said.

The State does not require charter schools to provide transportation, an issue that might be avoided by including the charter school's students on the same bus with district non-charter students.

Another possible drawback is if the district decides to end the charter and convert it back to a regular school, in which case the district must pay back at time of conversion all additional assistance funds it received over the life of the charter.

Stanton also said state legislators can change the funding mechanism for district-sponsored charters at any time, which could negatively affect the district.

Board member Gary Hicks said he typically is opposed to charter schools, but after speaking with the district finance director, he views district-sponsored charters as different from privately-funded charter schools, and he would be willing to look into the option.

HUSD Finance Director Cynthia Windham explained that the 100-day count for the following year's revenue means that only students new to the district could receive the additional $1,400 in a charter's first year; in the second year, all students at the chartered school would count toward the additional funds.

"What I like about the idea is creating niches in our schools to attract new students," said board president Rich Adler. "We could offer a little different focus and market it well."

Adler said school districts in Arizona haven't received money from the Facilities Board for the past five years, nor building renewal money for the past two years, so he isn't too concerned about the "cons" of creating a charter school.

Board member Carm Staker said she would like to hear more from districts that have chartered schools in the past and learn from them. Stanton listed several districts that he will contact for more information.

In other action, the board:

• Eliminated the position of public relations/ELL director, and created the position of Director of Federal Programs and School Improvement beginning July 1 at a salary range of $65,750 to $80,700.

• Created the position of Director of Information Technology and added an Information Systems Help Desk Technician with a beginning salary of $50,000.

The next HUSD governing board meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at Bradshaw Mountain High School.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013
Article comment by: @ Teachers Please

Except you don't need more teachers - with declining enrollment you need less.

The Director of Federal Programs and School Improvement will also help bring in much needed monies through assured compliance and identification/applications (grants) to funding sources.

You need some chiefs to run the place - never forget that.

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: There was a Misprint


The paper misprinted the Helpdesk salary, it doesn't start at 50K, the IT director does.

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Eliminate 1 position and create 3

Another District admin and two more sitting in desks at the District. Why is the focus not on the children and the classroom

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Adler's Niche

Adler is the board member that represents Liberty, to the detriment of the rest of the district. Help desk position for $50,000, another new admin position that we don't count as admin. Starting Teacher with 4 year degree gets $30,500. Help desk-No degree needed

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Better do it quick!! !

Correction: Charter schools are not privately funded!! They are funded through taxes just like district schools. They receive the extra 1400 per student to cover the costs of leasing/mortgages, buses, supplies and technology. These are all items that are compensated through a variety of state funding mechanisms for DISTRICT SCHOOLS. Charters do not have the ability to sell bonds to build buildings and assess the public.... like districts. Districts M & O budgets DO NOT include the payments on buildings. Charters, on the other hand cannot add to property taxes.

This is brilliant. I do find it a little ironic. Take the charter dollars but provide buildings, transportation and technology through the district. We are seeing what the starvation of the AZ education system has caused.

Got to admit:
It is creating some strange bedfellows.

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Teachers Please

How about eliminating the newly created position of Director of Federal Programs and School Improvement. You can hire two teachers for that.

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