Tucson's largest school district has set a course to handle fewer students with less money in fewer schools. The Tucson Unified School District governing board has made $19 million in cuts to next year's budget, which is $2 million more than anticipated.
Eleven schools will close. The number of exceptional education students per teacher will increase. Schools will need a larger number of students to justify funding positions such as vice principal, librarian and counselor. Custodians will only clean the rooms in schools that are used. Professional development funding has been cut. And the district will adjust how it pays blue collar workers to trim pay closer to the time spent working.
"This has been tough, it's been difficult, it's been painful," said Yousef Awwad, chief financial officer of TUSD. "Whenever you reduce expenses, especially, in a district like ours, which is heavily dependent on labor and employees, that means somebody's losing their job. This is always a bad feeling and not something you enjoy doing."
The board approved the new budget this week.
"We realized very early in the process that none of the decisions that the district would make to eliminate the deficit was going to be easy," said Chief Financial Officer Yousef Awwad. "However, we proceeded with extreme diligence and resolve to find the best way to deal with the budget by keeping cuts as far away as possible from the classroom. Accordingly, 87 percent of the reductions are in resources outside the classroom."
Budget cuts began in December 2011 and have increased due to state funding reductions, declining enrollment, and maintenance expenses, not unlike other Arizona districts.
The biggest move is the closure of eleven schools, already in process, which is expected to save more than $4 million.
District leaders are saving $5 million by making funding changes, and nearly $6 million by cutting department budgets.
Smaller cuts to staff funding and other areas will make up the rest of the short fall.
The new TUSD budget also provides a $2 million contingency fund for emergencies.
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