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TUHSD financially better off than most

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Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011 12:00 pm

While many Arizona school districts are looking at a difficult financial situation for the next fiscal year, the Tempe Union High School District finds itself at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Due mainly to conservative financial planning and increased enrollment, TUHSD is projected to have a budget surplus of about $1.8 million, even with reductions totaling about $2.1 million. The surplus is also due in part to roughly $1.3 million that the district received from Education Jobs Funding, a bill signed by President Barack Obama in August 2010, which allocated $10 billion to public schools nationwide.

For the 2010-11 school year, the average daily membership at TUHSD was up almost 400 students from last year. It is projected to increase by about 600 for the 2011-12 school year.

"The truth of the matter is, as we move forward, (TUHSD) is in extremely good financial shape compared to many, many school districts across the state of Arizona," Superintendent Steve Adolph said.

He admitted, however, that while they will enjoy a surplus, what he is recommending they do with that money for next year's budget is not a long-lasting answer for staff salary. Adolph recommended that $1.7 million of the surplus be allocated for a 2.75 percent stipend for all TUHSD staff. However, because of reduction to employee retirement matching of about 1.5 percent per paycheck and a 1 percent stipend that TUHSD staff see on their current paychecks, their take-home pay next year will increase by just .2 percent should the superintendent's recommended budget be adopted.

The remaining balance of about $99,000 will be put in a contingency savings fund.

"Even though we are better off than most, there is no long-term salary movement that we are able to make for our staff," Adolph said. "Our staff members are hard-working people and they have been hurt by this economy like everyone else."

The increase in average daily membership will yield an additional $2 million under the revenue control limit or the main source of state funding for next year. TUHSD also has a contingency capacity from the 2010-11 budget of close to $1.2 million.

The biggest losses to the district's funding come from a decrease in the capital outlay revenue limit (CORL) of about $1.3 million and an increase in medical insurance premiums, which will cost about $800,000.

They also estimate an increase of $100,000 in transportation costs due to the rising price of fuel.

"We get $337 per student and this is where the Legislature hit us the hardest (CORL funding)," said Diane Meulemans, chief financial officer for TUHSD. "They took $115 of that $337 away from us for a 34 percent decrease. CORL can be kept as capital to purchase equipment or modifications to buildings or you can transfer a portion or all of it to (the maintenance and operations budget)."

One of the fastest-growing schools within TUHSD is Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee, which is an open-enrollment school that registers students from places like Laveen and Maricopa. School officials said they are expecting more than 2,700 students for the 2011-12 school year. Stay tuned to the AFN and ahwatukee.com for more budget updates.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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