Additional enrollment sends extra $7.5 million into Gilbert Public Schools budget

Gilbert Public Schools
Enrollment has grown in 2019-20 at Gilbert Public Schools. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newpaper)

Enrollment has grown in 2019-20 at Gilbert Public Schools. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newpaper)

With an unexpected increase in enrollment making more funding available from the state, Gilbert Public Schools’ governing board approved a revised budget Jan. 28 for fiscal year 2019-20 that increases the district’s combined funds more than $7.5 million.

Under the revisions, the district’s maintenance and operations budget grows from $234.7 million to $239.79 million while the unrestricted capital outlay goes from $10.98 million to $12.21 million. Smaller increases in various other funds accounted for the remaining difference.

At the heart of the increase was an increase of 885.55 in average daily membership over what the district estimated for the year, Finance Director Jackie Mattinen said.

Average daily membership, or ADM, as defined in state law, is total enrollment of fractional students and full-time students, minus withdrawals, of each school day through the first 100 days of the school year. The ADM is a central part of the state’s funding formula for districts. Thus, the increase for GPS’ ADM earned additional state funding for the district.

Asked by board member Lori Wood how the money would be spent, Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz said the excess budget capacity has been placed into a contingency line in the budget until decisions are made.

Board members greeted the news of the revised budget warmly. The revision passed on a 5-0 vote.

“The demographic studies said that the number of students in our district were in decline, so that should be affecting both us and charter schools,” board member Reed Carr said. “That means the only way to gain those back is that parents chose to bring their students back to GPS—really bucking the trends.

“I just want to compliment the way that our principals, the way that our staff has responded, the atmosphere that they have created, that created an environment that parents want their children in GPS.”

Betz also presented projections that showed more money coming in next fiscal year under Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed state budget.

That included a 1.89% increase in base-level funding to account for inflation. Betz said the district can expect its revenue control limit to grow about $4.36 million as a result.

Furthermore, Ducey has proposed fully restoring District Additional Assistance in 2021, two years before original projections. DAA is money that the state gives districts by formula to address capital needs. However, the state slashed the funding to a small percentage of the formula in the wake of the Great Recession.

If that proposal comes to fruition, it could mean an additional $4.56 million to fund the district’s capital needs.

Additionally, the voters’ approval of increasing the district’s maintenance and operations override from 10% to 15% of the budget would be worth an additional $11.75 million to the district.

“I don't think it can be overstated that the voters of the Gilbert district are the primary drivers in the flexibility that we're experiencing in the budget right now,” board President Charles Santa Cruz said.
By Tom Blodgett

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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