Kingman school district posts a budget that all of us can understand

Wanda Hubbard

Wanda Hubbard

KINGMAN - For the last couple years, Wanda Hubbard, the director of finance for the Kingman Unified School District, yearned to provide a financial report to the community that's understandable to those who aren't extreme accounting junkies.

Her plans turned into reality Wednesday when the district published its Popular Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The district is already required to publish a financial report for the Arizona Auditor General and the Department of Education and post it on its website, but it's numerical mumbo jumbo to people who aren't financial experts.

"It's so difficult to understand," Hubbard said. "Even the numbers have numbers."

The financial reports the district is required to publish take time to read through, are hard to understand and are overwhelming to the average person, she said.

But it's important for people in the community to understand how their tax dollars are spent.

"With the popular report, you can spend half an hour and understand what's going on," she said.

Since it is the first time the district has done something like this, Hubbard is inviting feedback from the community. She wants to know what parts are confusing, what parts are missing, what people want to see more of and what people want to see less of.

People call her about the budget all the time. They often don't understand how to formulate their questions because they don't fully understand how it works. This report is a response to the community's need to understand and her need to fully explain.

"This is public money, so the public has every right to know how it's spent," she said. "The goal is to do it every year."

The document lays out the last three fiscal years. At first glance, you can see just how far revenue has fallen in the since fiscal year 2010. Not counting bond or adjacent ways revenue, the district brought in $61,481,057 in revenue from, among other things, local taxes and state and federal resources. In fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, the district pulled in $53,690,168.

Adjacent ways revenue pays for improvements needed to ensure students have safe access to and from schools, such as sidewalks, roads and traffic signals.

Hubbard doesn't include the adjacent ways revenue when calculating the bottom line because the use of the money is so narrowly defined, but it is included in the report.

As for the overall decrease in revenue, two main factors are at play: fewer students attending district schools and state reductions in funding.

The state funds Kingman Unified schools to the tune of about $5,000 per student on average. The formula for doing so relies on average daily membership, which is quite convoluted.

If a student spends half of his or her time at a district school and the other half at an online school, KUSD receives half of the funding it would receive if the students attended a district school fulltime, Hubbard said.

In absolute numbers, district enrollment has decreased by 471 since fiscal year 2007.

Revenue shrinks

But in ADM terms, the district has lost 1,074 students in that same timeframe.

Take the decrease in ADM and multiply it by the $5,000 average funding per student and you have $5,370,000 less revenue now than in fiscal year 2010.

Then you have the state funding cuts.

Consider soft capital revenue, which is one of three buckets of funding provided by the state and used to pay for student-related capital that has a longer life than one year, such as desks, textbooks and buses.

Though all three of the state's funding mechanisms have been cut, it's soft capital bucket that's almost completely gone, she said.

According to the soft capital funding formula, the district is eligible for $1,416,130 for fiscal year 2013. But because of the cuts, the district will receive $251,000 instead.

As revenue has gone down so have expenditures. Again, not counting bond or adjacent ways money, the district's expenditures have decreased from $56,001,211 in fiscal year 2010 to $54,179,711 in 2012.

The district has increased the size of classrooms, which lowered the number of teachers needed.

Since fiscal year 2010, roughly 30 teaching positions have been eliminated from the district.

Class size, on the other hand, has gone up based on ratios that differ between grade levels. For K-2, the formula is one teacher for every 27 students.

Between 3-5, it's one teacher for every 29 students, one teacher for every 32 students between grades 6-8, and one teacher for every 34 students in high school.

It trimmed its administrative staff as well.

"Across the board, we've had to cut everything," Hubbard said.