Tulsa Public Schools is in the process of building a new budget for 2013, but for finance officials who were with the district five years ago, it’s deja vu.
“To go from $318 million to $303 million puts us back to our 2007 budget,” said Trish Williams, chief financial officer, referring to TPS’ general fund.
The bulk of the $14.9 million – or 4.7 percent – decline that the school system is anticipating can be attributed to the end of federal Jobs Bill and stimulus funding.
On top of that, public school districts across Oklahoma have been warned to prepare for losing as much as 9.1 percent of their federal funding as part of the federal government’s efforts to reduce its deficits. The actual amount lost won’t be known until January.
At TPS, that would equate to $2 million less to support students with special education needs and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
“It is hugely frustrating for school districts to be told they’re in a flat budget year, but really, that’s not the case at all,” Williams said, referring to state leaders. “There are additional funds for supplemental funding, and education is not a part of the conversation. That certainly raises a few eyebrows when we’re reducing teachers.”
Since 2008, common education’s share of all state appropriations has declined from 35.9 percent to 34.1 percent. Additionally, some new mandates passed by lawmakers will introduce new costs for schools.
One of great concern to Williams is an update to the state’s Reading Sufficiency Act, which is designed to end “social promotion” for students not reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Schools will be required to provide remediation services – including additional instruction time, tutoring or other support – and multiple testing opportunities to students before they are retained.
“One of the things I’m doing right now is researching the obligations and how we’re going to pay for it,” she said.
The school board initially approved a plan to slash 150 teaching positions out of Tulsa classrooms for the fall. But Superintendent Keith Ballard set out to identify new savings and raise private funds to save the 75 positions that would have been eliminated because of the end of federal Jobs Bill funding.
To date, two anonymous local donors have given TPS $1.82 million to save 45 teaching positions, and another 19 teaching positions will be funded because an equivalent number of vacant administrative positions will be held open.
Williams said retaining those teaching positions will be a godsend to schools during 2012-13, but the need to find a long-term solution still weighs heavily on her and other top officials.
“The donations were extremely important for us, but how do we sustain? The other concern is our carryover fund is about 2 percent, which is extremely low for a district our size. Our bond rating was even downgraded because of that fact last year, and it is nowhere near the percentage that suburban districts carry over,” Williams said.
By the numbers
The TPS preliminary budget 2012-13 represents:
- General Fund estimated revenues of $316,693,717 and estimated expenditures of $303,888,585
- An overall decline of $14.9 million, or 4.7 percent, since 2011-12
- $1.82 million from two anonymous donors that will save 45 teaching positions which would have been cut otherwise
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Leave a comment
- Differentiation between public service and teaching jobs
- WWU training partner jailed in shooting
- Huntsville military blotter: More than $9275 in training apparatus stolen from … – The Huntsville Times
- Will efforts to strengthen training contention pull minorities out?
- A Video Camera in Every Classroom