Flagstaff Unified School District is already thinking about its next financial appeals to the voters.
District administrators hope to extend the existing capital override for books and computers and seek another bond package for building repairs in the November 2012 elections.
And even though voters approved a 7-year, $7 million annual budget override last year, FUSD finance director Ken Garland is making the rounds already with informational presentations on the budget in general, and how tax initiatives like overrides and bonds are used by schools.
Currently, FUSD collects for a maintenance and operations override, a capital override and bonds -- so-called "elected funds" that are reflected in the secondary property tax levy.
The primary tax levy funds general operations, but it is capped by state law based on enrollment and property valuations. State per-pupil funding that supplements low property tax collections is among the lowest in the country, and voters in more than a hundred school districts in Arizona, including FUSD, have passed overrides just to meet basic education standards.
The state no longer specifically funds building maintenance and has nearly eliminated funding for textbooks and supplies.
Arizona does still allot money in "unrestricted capital" -- about $3.5 million, which the district can use for any purposes it sees fit, including personnel -- in addition to the state aid that goes mostly toward salaries and programming.
The capital override raises money for items like textbooks, technology and small vehicles, and it represents about 25 percent of the capital budget. Bonds pay for building maintenance, buses and classroom equipment.
The school board must adopt a resolution no later than its meeting on April 10, 2012, to hold the elections by next November. They are, in brief:
-- Capital override extension: $2.9 million per year. The current collection is for $2.2 million annually. An extension next year keeps this tax from phasing out. It was approved in 2006.
Garland said the increased collection will be offset by declining primary tax levies.
-- Bonds: $10 million-$12 million. District officials have determined that FUSD can sell up to $12 million more in bonds without increasing the existing levy.
In 2006, voters approved about $64 million in bond sales. The district ended up selling about $53 million worth.
FIRST OF SEVERAL
The proposed 2012 elections are only the first of several recommended. Garland also noted that the district would need to seek renewal of the maintenance and operations override in 2014 (it was approved in 2010), $30 million to $35 million more in bonds in 2017, another renewal of the capital override in 2018 (assuming approval next year) and, similarly, a renewal of the M&O override in 2019 (another extension of the presumed 2014 renewal).
Garland's long-range funding projections for the next few years are somewhat optimistic. They assume continued precipitous enrollment loss -- 1,600 students over three years, or more than 15 percent -- but constant state funding formulas. They also imply continued voter-approved override funding.
With these assumptions, FUSD's operations budget could shrink by nearly $9 million, or 14 percent, by fiscal year 2015. He does, however, predict stabilization in enrollment (and even a slight rebound) and an uptick in state aid by the next year and into fiscal year 2018.
"The assumption for the last three years (2016-18) is based on optimism that there will be increased jobs in Flagstaff, that there will be increased overall population in the District and that the several program and curricular initiatives already underway, and several such initiatives now being discussed, will result in students returning to the public schools," he wrote in a memo.
FUSD BALLOT MEASURES
Capital Override/$2.2M (2006)/2.9M (2012)
Bonds/$53M (2006)/$10M-$12M (2012)
M&O Override/$7.8M (2010)/TBD (2014)
FUSD M&O BUDGET
FY12 /$62.4M/Estimate, subject to state reductions
FY13/$58.4M/Expected enrollment loss of 750 students
FY14/$55.6M/Headcount drop of 500 students
FY15/$53.64M/Headcount drop of 350 students
FY16/$54.1M/Constant enrollment and 1% state funding increase
FY17/$55.3M/Based on 0.5% increase in enrollment and 2% state increase
FY18/$56.9M/Based on 1% enrollment increase and 2% state increase