Mesa Public Schools Officials Expect $20 Million in Cuts (AZ)
March 30, 2011
The cuts Mesa Public Schools and other districts will have to make may not be as drastic as anticipated.
Even so, district officials expect about $20 million in cuts next school year, or about half the $40 million previously expected.
The assessment came after U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently told Gov. Jan Brewer that she didn’t need Washington’s permission to cut about 250,000 people from the state’s Medicaid rolls.
"(The waiver) is a good sign," said Gerrick Monroe, Mesa assistant superintendent for business services, noting that if more cuts come from Medicaid, less will likely come from schools.
The state Legislature is expected to determine the exact K-12 education cuts in the next couple of weeks.
In addition to anticipated state cuts, Mesa schools have enrolled about 2,200 fewer students this school year, which means $11.3 million less money from the state. Fewer students mean fewer teachers will be needed.
The Mesa Republic asked parents for their suggestions on how Mesa schools should handle the impending cuts. Some of the more popular options include: increasing class sizes, pay ing for half-day kindergarten; and looking into teacher salaries and benefits.
Jennifer Zakaras said she liked an idea from school board member Mike Nichols, which would involve property taxes.
"No one’s favorite option, but having personally lived in a handful of states, Arizona’s property taxes have been much lower than in other states," she said. "Mike did some calculations based on a property value of $200,000, and to keep school funding at current levels, it would cost roughly $105 per year in increased property taxes, or around $8.70 a month. I can only speak for myself, but I would take that option in a heartbeat. I’d pay $105 a year if it meant we could keep funding where it is now, especially when considering the other areas in which they are looking, or have, to make cuts."
Miki Newbry said she agreed with raising property taxes. "It would stabilize the school budget and the immediate crisis would be taken care of," she said. "If we were willing to pay a bit more, we could move ourselves up from 49th in the state rankings of per pupil expenditures. This is certainly something I am willing to do."
Julianna Larsen said anyone who’s not in the classroom should be considered for cuts.
"Anything not directly touching the life of a student on a daily basis," she said. "Basic skills, Title I, superintendency, math-reading coaches could all go away today and your child will still be taught or coached because a teacher will be there to carry on with their daily routine."
She also said district leaders should consider cutting busing to any schools that are not neighborhood schools.
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Debbie Forrest said there are three areas that could result in significant results. The first involves the district paying for half-day kindergarten, which means parents could pay the other half for a full-day program. It could result in $8.5 million for the district. Her second suggestion involves having a furlough day for all staff, when employees don't work and don't get paid, which could result in more than $1 million.
"I would also encourage them to have class sizes re-evaluated," Forrest said.