David Schauer

Brian Johnson/AFN

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state budget last Wednesday, and with it came a cut of $183 million to public education. On Tuesday, members of the Kyrene School District administration spoke to the public about possible avenues they were preparing to deal with to reduce their budget by about $5.3 million.

Kyrene's budget for this year was about $99.8 million. They are projecting $94.5 million for the 2011-12 school year. Superintendent David Schauer and Chief Financial Officer Karin Smith discussed ideas, including increased class sizes, reduced administration benefits and more, that could help resolve the shortfall.

"We still have work to do," Schauer said.

Next year's budget will not be adopted until July 1 but the district will discuss possible staff reductions at the next governing board meeting on April 26.

"We should know by then if that's the direction (reduction in force) we are going," Schauer said.

One of the ideas put on the table by the District Leadership Council was to increase class size by two students in kindergarten-through third-grade classrooms and by one in fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms. Current class size range for first through third grade is 25 to 27 students, 28 to 30 for fourth and fifth grade and 30 to 32 for middle-school classrooms.

"(Class sizes) are already higher than we would like to see them," Schauer said.

Another idea is to change the start time at Kyrene Middle School and Akimel A-al Middle School from 8:15 a.m. to 9 a.m., which would eliminate 14 bus-driving positions. They are also looking at getting rid of two of the four district social workers who are part of Kyrene's prevention services.

The district has $3.3 million coming from the federal government from the Education Jobs Funding, a bill signed by President Barack Obama in August 2010, which allocated $10 billion to public education. However, additional expenses, including the re-establishment of $1.8 million in liability and health insurance prepays, and $1.5 million for professional development funding, backfill of certified base pay and increased retirement costs, offsets it.

In 2008-09, Kyrene's general budget limit (GBL) was over $106 million, a $3 million increase from the previous year, with an average daily membership of 16,875. While they expect that number to increase slightly next year, the funding drop of $12 million over those years will provide significant hurdles, Schauer said.

"We see a 16 percent loss of revenue per student (over those years)," Smith said. "That revenue per pupil has a significant impact on what we are able to do with the available resources."

Kyrene is still expecting mid-year budget reductions, which are now believed to be between $1.6 million and $1.8 million, but through savings, they have about $2 million saved in a contingency fund.

Stay tuned to the "Ahwatukee Foothills News" and ahwatukee.com for more details as they develop.

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

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