Gilbert Public Schools board adopts increased budgets for 2020-21

Gilbert Public Schools
Gilbert Public Schools adopted a combined $22.2 million in budget increases for its maintenance and operations and unrestricted capital budgets. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools adopted a combined $22.2 million in budget increases for its maintenance and operations and unrestricted capital budgets. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board approved on June 22 budgets of $258.7 million in maintenance and operations and $15.04 million in unrestricted capital for the 2020-21 school year.

The district also estimated a decrease in its primary tax rate from $3.8656 per $100 in assessed valuation to $3.7665. This decrease would be coupled with increases in its maintenance and operations, or M&O, override from $0.9548 to $1.38 per $100 and from $1.0819 per $100 to $1.1038 for Class B bonds.

Both increases are results of successful ballot questions last November, in which the district won an increase from a 10% M&O budget override to 15% and a new $100 million in bonds.

However, the increases to pay for the M&O override and the bonds were less than the district anticipated at the time of the election. In the election publicity pamphlet, the district anticipated the M&O override rate would be $1.4646 per $100 assessed valuation and the bonds would be $1.13.

Combined the property tax rate will go from $5.9023 per $100 assessed valuation to $6.2503, an increase of $0.348 per $100 assessed valuation, but $0.2099 less than what was anticipated at the time voters approved the override and bonds.

The budget figures are an increase of $19.4 million in M&O and $2.8 million in capital. The capacities for each budget are largely figured by formulas from the state.

With the override, the district promised to use the additional money for increased salaries, classroom size reductions and social-emotional supports for students.

Most of the $19.4 million in the increased M&O budget is being used in those areas, with $1.33 million going to nondiscretionary increases, such as medical premiums, retirement system payments and the increase in the minimum wage.

In unrestricted capital, the district is committed to $8.47 million in non-discretionary expenditures, primarily in curriculum at $4.49 million and software licenses at $2.6 million.

Those expenditures leave $6.56 million for a zero-based budgeting prioritization process that could designate funds for school marquees, performing-arts needs, athletics or general school capital needs, Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz said.

Betz said the classroom site fund, which is funded by state sales tax, has decreased $900,000 from the coronavirus pandemic. The district anticipated an increase of about $41 per student in that fund, but will end up getting about $9 less per student than this fiscal year because of the state's crashing sales tax revenue in the wake of the pandemic.

However, a budget balance carry forward from this school year, once budgeted to be $9.04 million, has grown to $11.04 million, absorbing the blow.

Other fund budgets include $3.1 million for instructional improvement; $3.52 million in Title I funds; $1.8 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act; and $50.37 million in the bond fund, which includes $40 million from a bond sale anticipated in August.

The budget was put together with some assumptions in place, Betz said. Those assumptions include a loss of about 400 students across the district; no savings realized from teaching vacancies or employee turnover; and no decreases in indirect revenue funds, though community education and nutrition services could see decreases.

Furthermore, increases to cover additional cleaning supplies, devices and personal protective equipment have not yet been identified.

Other items

  • After performance review in executive session, the board awarded Superintendent Shane McCord a performance pay bonus of 5% on his base salary of $189,000. Board members praised what McCord has brought to the district since he started as superintendent in 2017, but McCord deflected to his administrative team and district faculty and staff. “It is not me,” he said. “It is them. That’s what makes this school district special.”

  • McCord said an in-person graduation for the Class of 2020 would not be possible given the current climate with COVID-19 but still left open the door for an in-person celebration for the graduating classes at the different schools.

  • The task force working on plans to reopen the district's schools in the fall will present its plans to the governing board at a special board meeting 6:30 p.m. June 30.

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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