Gadsden school funds cut by $1.5M
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — The Gadsden Elementary School District has less money to purchase new school books, computers and other educational materials and equipment, owing to a cut of nearly $1.5 million in state funds for capital purchases in the current fiscal year.
Robert Bernhard, the district's finance director, said the revenue loss is part of a five-year trend of state cutbacks that he doesn't foresee being reversed anytime soon.
In the Gadsden district, the impact will be felt in the district's budget for small capital purchases, such as computers and new textbooks, and in its budget for unrestricted capital acquisitions, such as construction, building repairs and purchase of school buses and other vehicles for district use.
The reduction for the fiscal year that ends June 30 comes as no surprise to district officials, Bernhard said.
“Since the beginning of the year, we've had an indication about how much, more or less, we are going to lose. It is something we are prepared for. We have money to cover some of the reduction, but not to buy some things that are needed, like computers, books or to replace school buses.”
The state has been reducing its funding to local school districts in recent years as part of its own efforts to balance its budget amid the economic downturn, Gadsden officials say.
“They began by cutting $300,000 from us,” said Bernhard, “then it went to a half-million, then to one million, and now we are at nearly $1.5 million in cuts, and we don't anticipate that the situation is going to improve. What we hope is that they don't cut us any more than they have.”
The district has been trying to make parents aware of the situation, “so they know that having money does not mean we can spend it just like that,” Gadsden Superintendent Raymond Aguilera said. “We have to use our budget wisely. We can't just say, ‘We need computers, let's go buy them.'”
In prior years, the district was able to transfer up to $1 million it held in reserve to cover reductions in state funding, Bernhard said.
This year, it has been able transfer $500,000, provided it faces no emergency expenses this year.
The situation comes as the district faced criticism among some quarters for not contributing funds to help pay for district marching band's travel to London to take part in that city's New Year's Day parade.
While the district was not barred from contributing toward the travel, Bernhard said, “We have to remind the public what kind of situation we are facing. It may seem like there is money available, but in reality there isn't because we have been cut back.”