While the Higley USD maintenance and operations budget and unrestricted capital budget are on the rise, the tax rate is anticipated to fall slightly in fiscal year 2020-21.

The board approved the proposed budget 5-0 and set a public hearing on it for July 15, at which time final approval would come.

The district anticipates the primary property tax rate will fall from $3.8632 per $100 assessed valuation to $3.724, while secondary property tax, covering a voter-approved maintenance and operations override and bonds, will rise from $3.1901 per $100 assessed valuation to $3.3062. The combined rate thus falls from $7.0533 to $7.0302, a decrease of $0.0231.

The maintenance and operations budget is proposed to expand from $85.56 million to $90.42 million. That includes $12.01 million from the maintenance and operations override and $3.5 million in estimated budget balance carry-forward.

The district anticipates base-level funding will increase from $4,202.31 per student to $4,359.55, with an inflation adjustment of 1.74%, plus additional funding from the Gov. Doug Ducey’s “20 by ‘20” program to increase teacher salaries.

On that front, the district anticipates average teacher salaries to increase from $56,568 annually to $59,212 for FY 2020-21, a 4.67% rise. Over the three years of Ducey’s program, the average salary has risen 23.43% from $47,972, exceeding the governor’s promise of 20%.

The district achieved that mark, although funding was based on the state average teacher salary and a narrow definition of teacher—Higley’s salaries were already higher than the state average, and the district used a broader definition of teacher than the state, HUSD CFO Gary Holland said.

The unrestricted capital budget will be slightly higher this year than last, moving from $24.24 million to $24.99 million. Holland said the items money will be spent include lease payment, curriculum, an update for information technology, capital improvements and transportation replacements.

Special education expenditures are expected to increase from $13.75 million to $14.47 million.

The Classroom Site Fund budget, built on Proposition 301 education sales tax funds, is anticipated to be $9.69 million. That money primarily goes to teacher salaries, including base salary and performance pay.

The district received $657,025.90 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. The Indian Gaming fund used for instructional improvement is expected to be $624,000 in FY 2020-21.

Other items

  • The board accepted the gift of a knight statue for Higley High School with a 3-2 vote, with Amy Kaylor and Kristina Reese dissenting. The Higley High School mascot is a knight. The 10½-foot statue with a 32-inch base was the subject of some controversy; Kaylor and Reese argued that booster group fundraising started before approval and that site administration was not included in planning for the statue, creating some issues. Other board members said those concerns were for district and school administrators and that the board’s only role was to accept the gift.

  • The board passed policy amendments regarding support staff and professional staff holidays and sick pay with 3-2 votes, with Reese and Kaylor dissenting. They expressed concern that the amendment, which allows carried-over paid time off to accumulate, will leave the district in a vulnerable position in the case of large budget cuts or a mass exodus of administrators.