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MailTribune.com
  • State funds, more property tax revenue aid P-T school district

  • PHOENIX — Projected increases totaling more than $1.5 million in state aid and property tax revenue will come just in time for the Phoenix-Talent School District, which has exhausted its reserves. The money will allow current programs to continue next year.
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  • PHOENIX — Projected increases totaling more than $1.5 million in state aid and property tax revenue will come just in time for the Phoenix-Talent School District, which has exhausted its reserves. The money will allow current programs to continue next year.
    "This new budget that has come from the state is helping us for sure," said Teresa Sayre, director of instructional services, who was selected to become superintendent on July 1 when Ben Bergreen retires.
    School Board members approved the 2013-14 budget after a public hearing at Talent Elementary School Thursday. The budget committee already had approved the plan.
    Use of reserves has allowed the district to preserve programs and retain staff.
    "One of the major things we have done over the last two years is use reserve money. This next year we didn't have any left," Said Sayre. "We knew we had to use those reserves to get through the hardest times of the Great Recession."
    State school support will be up $1,331,000 over fiscal year 2012-13's $13,376,000. Property tax revenues are projected to increase by $280,000 to $7,050,000.
    The budget includes three furlough days for teachers near the end of the next school year. This year teaching staff was scheduled for seven furlough days, but not all of those were instructional days. One of those days was later restored to the academic calendar.
    Furlough days allow the district to save salary money to balance the budget. A memo of understanding allows for meetings with certified staff to adjust the calendar as needed.
    "In the proposed calendar we have initially set those three days towards the end of the year," said Sayre. "If it looks like we don't need to do that we would add them back in."
    Principals took nine furlough days this year while district office personnel took 12. Next year Sayre said the district office will probably have four furlough days.
    District staff size remains largely unchanged, with the district taking advantage of attrition to avoid layoffs.
    A teaching position was left vacant at Orchard Hill Elementary because of decreasing enrollment. A full-time support staff position was not filled at the district office. A part-time social studies position was left unfilled at Phoenix High School.
    "Those positions were vacated. We didn't have to look at anyone and say, 'I'm sorry, you have lost your job,' " said Sayre.
    A certified intervention specialist position at Talent Middle School has been moved into the general fund budget. Grant money had paid for it in the past.
    District officials are in negotiations with the Phoenix-Talent Education Association. The current contract expires on June 30. Money was budgeted for scheduled step raises but there was none included for other potential increases, said Sayre.
    District 4 serves 2,800 students and employs a staff of 275. A small decrease in student numbers is expected next year, Sayre says.
    Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.
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