The Higley Unified School District governing board voted Tuesday to eliminate several positions and make reassignments next year to address a potential $1.8 million shortfall based on current budget projections.
As part of the plan – approved 2-to-1, with two abstentions – assistant superintendent Mike Thomason will temporarily serve as principal of Higley High School. Current principal Larry Rother accepted a position earlier this year to serve as the principal of Chandler High School beginning July 1.
The board also approved district recommendations to cut a director secretary, the print shop operator, the director of assessment and operations, the alternative education administrator, the secondary accountability director, two project specialists, and a technician position. That last position was a temporary contract.
In all, there were seven job positions eliminated. The district will reassign two part-time instructional coaches at the high school level, as well.
The current Higley district operating budget is $52 million. School districts must approve a budget for the next school year by May 15, even if the Legislature has not finalized the state budget. At this point, that is the case. Budgets may be changed and they often are.
The district is working off numbers from Gov. Jan Brewer's budget proposal for the state.
“We have to prepare a budget based on the current budget projections we have now,” district spokeswoman Emily Gersema said.
Board members Venessa Whitener and Kim Anderson said yes to the budget cuts.
Board member Denise Standage voted against the measure.
Standage argued there were other cuts that could be made.
Kristina Reese and Jake Hoffman chose not to vote on the matter, saying they needed more time.
In November, voters in the Higley Unified School District turned down renewal of the district’s budget override. School districts in Arizona are given a budget from the state based on enrollment, but can ask voters to tax themselves to provide additional funds.
Those funds – a budget override – are in place for only seven years unless voters renew them. Without the renewal, the additional funds decrease by one third each of the last three years.
The district went to voters a year early, so no override cuts are projected for next school year. In fact, in the month after the failed override vote, the governing board approved a plan to put the override back on the ballot in November 2013.
Higley is not alone. In November, voters in Gilbert and Chandler also turned down budget override renewals. The Gilbert governing board has been discussing how to address its potential $6 million shortfall for several weeks. The board may increase student athletic fees, as well as decrease campus budgets as part of plans proposed by the district. It has already approved changes to the district’s health insurance plan because of a 13.5 percent increase in health costs.
The Chandler district, like Higley, took the budget override to voters a year ahead of time, so will not face budget override decreases next school year.
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