The Kyrene School District made a call to the community to assist them in the next budget development process at the most recent governing board meeting on Tuesday.

Facing yet another projected budget shortfall of $3.7 million over the next two years, the Kyrene administration is looking to the community to pump fresh ideas into developing the next budget.

They unveiled plans to create the Citizen's Budget Council, a group of 8 to 10 members which they hope will include parents, business executives and educators with experience in and demonstrated knowledge of the budget development process.

Dr. David Schauer, superintendent of the Kyrene School District, said this group is being created to get the community more directly involved with the budget process. At several board meetings last year when they debated changes to and ultimately reduced the special areas - including physical education, art, music and library - to make up the budget shortfall, some community members expressed their lack of faith in the board's decision making. The attendance to board meetings rose considerably from the beginning of the year to when discussion and decisions were made about these special areas.

"We learned two things from last year: One was about the timeline, people felt they were pushed too quickly," Schauer said. "Two, certain members of the community should be asked to contribute ideas and provide expertise."

The goal is to begin discussion on developing the budget earlier this year and Schauer said they hope to have the committee in place by October.

While they are still defining the exact role the committee will have in developing the budget, the district has asked any and all those interested to attend an information session, the time and place of which will be announced at the Sept. 27 governing board meeting.

Those who apply will need to be motivated, district officials said. As it is projected now, they will meet every other Tuesday, on the off night of governing board meetings, 12 to 14 times for 90 minutes each, from when members are selected until June.

"The process has become more transparent, more inclusive over the years and this is our way to increase that," Schauer said. "We're in a new era of school finance and budgeting. Optimists thought this was just a phase. It's never been great (school financing) but it was stable. This is the third straight year we are looking at a deficit."

The next governing board meeting will take place at the district office, 8700 S. Kyrene Road in Tempe. The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m.

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