Finances good for now, but Gilbert Public Schools could see $10.22M reduction for next year

Gilbert Public Schools district office
Gilbert Public Schools is in good financial shape for this fiscal year but could have a large cut coming for fiscal year 2021-22. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools is in good financial shape for this fiscal year but could have a large cut coming for fiscal year 2021-22. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools officials presented the governing board March 2 with a healthier revised budget for this fiscal year, but a projection for next year shows a large cut could be looming.

Those differing forecasts came from Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz at the governing board’s study session and brief board business meeting.

The revision for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget is the second one since the original budget adoption in June. That budget was for $258.7 million in maintenance and operations and $15.04 million in unrestricted capital.

Maintenance and operations, or M&O, pays for the day-to-day running of the district, including salaries and benefits, while unrestricted capital handles items such as buildings, equipment, software and textbooks.

A first revision of the budget from fall enrollment numbers, when declines were sharp, brought the M&O down to $252.94 million, though unrestricted capital grew to $16.85 million.

However, the second revision brought M&O to $260.52 million while unrestricted capital remained at $16.85 million.

Betz said the difference has come from a healthy budget balance carry forward; two rounds of grants from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, fund; a state enrollment stabilization grant; and some recovery in enrollment numbers that boosted the district’s average daily membership, or ADM, and weighted student counts.

ADM and the weighted student count are used in state funding formulas. ADM represents the total enrollment of fractional students and full-time students, minus withdrawals, of each school day through the first 100 days in session.

The board unanimously approved the revised budget.

However, as the district projected its budget for FY 2021-22, the picture changed. Betz said the district could not count on the additional state and federal grants, and the district projects a further loss of about 400 students.

The district projection reduces the maintenance and operations budget $10.22 million to $250.3 million, Betz said, from the second revised budget for this fiscal year, while the unrestricted capital would show a slight gain to $17.16 million.

The budget projection calls for a 2% increase in employee salaries for next fiscal year, costing the district about $4.7 million, Betz said. Other expected increases, offset by some credits, could mean another $2.15 million will need to be cut from the budget on top of the $10.22 million from the M&O budget reduction.

She also noted that a number of items could affect the projection, such as state legislative action and the possibility of a third round of ESSER grants.

Other items

  • The board studied slight changes to the 2021-22 school year calendar and revisions to the 2022-23 and 2023-24 calendar as promised when those two calendars were adopted by the board last week. The main change for those two calendars was the elimination of a final Monday off from spring break and pushing back the start of the school year from a Monday to a Tuesday, Some changes in half days off also were made. The changes go before the board for approval March 30.

  • The district’s technology team talked about its cybersecurity measures as well as a request for proposal for new security cameras for the district.

  • The board unanimously approved the recommendation of the Employee Benefits Trust medical insurance rates for the next fiscal year. The recommendation includes a small rate raise for employees and additional cost of $226,000 to the district. However, the trust will pay for two “premium holidays” because of a strong surplus. That involves the premiums being paid for by the trust on two pay dates still to be specified.

  • Superintendent Shane McCord read a proclamation declaring March 7-13 to be School Social Work Week.

By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.