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The lower reimbursement rate for online instruction and enrollment decline so far has cost Tempe Union High School District $4.9 million in anticipated revenue since the school year began July 1.

Before approving the second 2020-21 budget revision made so far this year, the Governing Board heard a brief presentation from Roland Carranza, district budget and finance director, about the state of district finances.

The state reimburses districts at a 5 percent lower rate for online students than it does for those in classrooms fulltime. And while Gov. Doug Ducey set aside about $320 million to cushion the impact of that shortfall statewide, that fund ran out of money and districts for the most part had to settle for less than they anticipated.

The shortfall in revenue – representing 5.2 percent of the district’s original $113.5-million spending plan – will not have any impact on this year’s operations, but will have to be accounted for in 2021-22 budget year planning, Carranza said.

And one wild card impacting that will be anticipated enrollment, which he and Superintendent Dr. Mendivil conceded has been dropping.

“We have aging neighborhoods and people love their homes and they’re not moving out,” Mendivil said, “and Tempe is becoming increasingly more costly to live in.”

Carranza added, “The numbers coming up from our feeder schools has been dropping.”

While they addressed enrollment declines traced to fewer young families moving in the district, no one discussed the impact that campus closures have had on enrollment as parents seek other educational options for their children.

Mendivil and Carranza indicated an enrollment analysis would be coming later.

Mendivil also said he hoped the State Senate Republican Caucus will be able to make good on its promise to equalize online and in-classroom reimbursement for the coming school year only.

Gov. Doug Ducey, who has been insisting that schools reopen fully, has not mentioned equalization in his proposed budget.

“I am hopeful again that with the State Senate proposing initially that they would fund the extra 5 percent that that will come through,” Mendivil said.

Not part of the discussion was the impact of board member Andres Barraza’s proposal that teachers get “hazard pay” if schools reopen for four-day-a-week in-person learning next month.

“I think that we ought to be talking about compensation during that period in terms of hazard pay,” he said. “They are going into a dangerous environment. We’re asking staff at all levels to go into that environment and we should also consider what the district staff has been doing for this entire time and what they’re going to be asked to do when school reopens.”

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