In Other News

The Sedona-Oak Creek School District Governing Board gave its final approval for the district’s budget at its meeting Tuesday, July 11.

Lynn Leonard, the district’s finance director, presented the adopted fiscal year 2018 budget of nearly $7.6 million, which the board unanimously approved in a 5-0 vote.

The board’s most significant question was when President Randy Hawley asked about a 33 percent drop in budget for school-sponsored cocurricular activities, concerned it meant schools might be cutting programs.

Leonard attributed the decrease essentially to recoding the funds to another line item, and she and Superintendent David Lykins assured the board schools aren’t cutting programs this year. The total budget is about $19,000 less than last fiscal year’s, accounting for statewide school funding decreases.

“Most of the districts experienced an 80 to 85 percent cut,” Leonard said. “Because we are below 1,100 students, we only experienced a 30 percent cut, so that’s a little silver lining .... Obviously it’s a severe problem, and we’re very lucky in this district that we have a large carry-forward and that we are able to meet all of our capital needs.”

The carry-forward is one way the school district makes up for potential budget cuts — by saving unspent funds from the previous school year, the district carries forward that extra money into the next year’s budget.

Leonard also presented a proposal for a state-mandated 1.06 percent salary bump for qualified teachers this coming school year.

The increase isn’t permanent, Leonard explained, it’s more of a one-time bonus. SOCSD has 59 teachers eligible for the increase, which is available only to certified teachers who have taught in Arizona for at least one year.

Support staff who are not classroom instructors, such as librarians and counselors, are not eligible. As the final figure for these salary increases won’t be determined until October, Leonard said the district plans to pay it out in two lump sums in December and May.

And while most of the funds needed to support this increase are coming from the state, it does not cover retirement or FICA costs, leaving the schools to make up the difference.

In the discussion following the proposal, Hawley asked if there was a way to provide a salary increase to those counselors and librarians who were ineligible for the state’s increase.

“Counselors and librarians serve a different purpose than classroom teachers, but in my opinion they’re just as important to the organization and we ought to treat them as such,” Hawley said in the meeting.

Lykins suggested charging Leonard with figuring out how much it would cost the district to provide bonuses to those who were not covered by the state’s increase. The board unanimously approved the teachers’ salary bump, and asked to continue conversation about an increase for counselors and librarians at a later meeting.

During the meeting, the board also approved contracting with the Yavapai County Education Service Agency to hire a speech pathologist, as no applicants to the open position were qualified; and approved new hires, resignations and extra duty contracts. The next governing board meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 1.


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