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Budget-makers earn their pay at this time of year when state legislative budget meetings and Arizona Corporation Commission rate hearings go on.
By Mike Cosentino
Larson Newspapers
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Budget-makers earn their pay at this time of year when state legislative budget meetings and Arizona Corporation Commission rate hearings go on.

Sedona-Oak Creek School District Business Manager Cynthia Windham is busy making multiple budgets, waiting for decisions to be made at the Arizona State Capitol.

With school budgets tighter than ever in Arizona — which has the lowest per-pupil expenditure in the nation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics — the news of 16.7 percent electricity rate increase request by Arizona Public Service to the Arizona Corporation Commission strikes fear into the hearts of school boards and their budget-makers.

Windham is estimating a 2 percent increase in the SOCSD maintenance and operations budget even though the legislature has not come to a final compromise yet.

That increase would bring the total SOCSD to $8.8 million for Fiscal Year 2007-08.

“We do not have all the pieces yet,” Windham said.

“[Saturday] June 30 is a critical date with lots of items being finalized, such as carryover amounts and funds encumbered” now to be paid later, she said.

Windham said he she got word of the APS request from the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, her business manager’s association, but the rate increase was at 20.4 percent, conflicting with the official 16.7 percent increase reported by the corporation commission.

At the new APS rate, a large part of SOCSD estimated increase would be sucked up in paying for electricity for the two elementary schools and one high school in the district.

The district spends about $350,000 per year on utilities. The rate hike would add about $73,000 a year to that, according to Windham.

SOCSD Governing Board Member John Wesnitzer said he has plans to give a serious look at solar energy sources to be purchased with bond funds, if approved.

Wesnitzer has some projections that, if all his research is correct, could see the district saving much or all of the $350,000 in utility costs within 10 years.


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