Higley USD takes first look at capital budget for next fiscal year

Higley USD, Jeff Gadd, Tyler Moore
Jeff Gadd, Higley USD interim chief financial officer (left), talks to the governing board about the fiscal year 2021-22 budget with Finance Director Tyler Moore in support. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Jeff Gadd, Higley USD interim chief financial officer (left), talks to the governing board about the fiscal year 2021-22 budget with Finance Director Tyler Moore in support. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Higley USD could have a $24.96 million budget balance to start fiscal year 2021-22, but it has plans to begin spending down some of that for continuing and unmet needs, district finance officials said.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Jeff Gadd and Finance Director Tyler Moore presented the information to the governing board at its Feb. 10 meeting.

Gadd said the district anticipates the state will fully fund District Additional Assistance—capital funding for districts by a state formula. The Arizona Legislature slashed the funds in the wake of the Great Recession and has been slowly restoring it since 2018. The unrestricted capital budget covers capital items like buildings, buses, textbook and technologal devices.

Among other highlights of HUSD's capital budget are designated funding for curriculum and textbook adoption; completing a goal to have a 1:1 ratio for students to technology devices throughout the district; and reducing the transfer of maintenance and operations funds to the unrestricted capital budget, a practice the district would like to phase out over five years, Moore said.

The budget also includes line items such as $120,000 for libraries, which previously did not have a budget, and $100,000 to start replenishing the district’s musical instrument inventory, which schools and parents said had been badly depleted.

Board President Kristina Reese praised the detail in the budget, which she said was unlike any she had seen since coming into office in 2013. Reese said the budget will directly impact students, recounting seeing a musical instrument fall apart on a field for a student during a musical performance.

Maintenance and operations budget

The board also took a third preliminary look at what its FY 2021-22 maintenance and operations budget will look like.

Gadd said that since the last look, the district has learned the Legislature plans to adjust funding for inflation by 1.2%, rather than the 1% the district projected. He added the district still does not know how much money it will get from the second round of grants from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program.

The district anticipates ESSER II could be worth $2.6 million to the district, and Gadd noted Congress is working on what could be a third round of funding from ESSER.

The district did get a final count for its average daily membership, the total enrollment of fractional students and full-time students, minus withdrawals, of each school day through the first 100 days in session.

That key figure in state education funding formulas ended up at a loss of 117 students, less than anticipated, Gadd said.

With all the estimates, the district is projecting a $104.48 general budget limit for M&O, an increase of $8.65 million from this fiscal year. That will allow the district to give 5% raises to employees and not raise employees’ costs for benefits, Moore said.

The district hopes to give tentative approval to the M&O budget March 10 and to the capital budget April 7, with both getting final approval June 23, Gadd said.

In other business, the board unanimously approved the language for contracts for its different kinds of employees.
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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