Cuts to Kingman schools, MCC not as bad as feared

KINGMAN - The $9.1 billion budget passed earlier this month by the Arizona Legislature hasn't devastated Kingman Unified School District or Mohave Community College like it has some of the state's other school districts, universities and colleges.

For KUSD, it will actually mean more school funding from the state, according to Superintendent Roger Jacks. He said that because of a 1.59 percent rise in inflation and $74.4 million figured in by the state as initial payment on an inflation-related lawsuit, the district would see an increase of $54.31 per student in 2015-16.

"The bottom line is that we're going to get about $800,000 more in our maintenance and operations budget from the state," said Jacks, noting he is basing that amount on information provided by KUSD's accountants. "I'm happy about that. It's going to help us."

Other districts, such as Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, didn't fare as well. The district quickly passed a resolution opposing the education budget, calling it "disappointing at best and devastating at worst." It noted the budget would cut $2.1 million from its maintenance and operations budget.

The state budget, which Gov. Doug Ducey signed March 12, keeps K-12 school funding essentially flat. Schools get the most money, $3.9 billion, but the budget does not fully address more than $336 million the state has been ordered to pay schools for skipping required inflation adjustment in recent years.

Instead, it provides an extra $74 million in inflation funding that Ducey contends is what should be owed.

Required cuts

Schools will be required to cut $123 million in non-classroom K-12 spending. The budget calls for an increase of $102 million in overall school spending, but much of that is required to make up for inflation and increased student counts.

But while the increase is helpful for KUSD at first glance, said Jacks, it doesn't fill in the gaps found at his - and most - districts, such as a cut of $155,000 in funding last year at KUSD and the rising costs of health insurance. KUSD is looking at a 14.7 percent, or $538,000, increase in rates.

And because of the Affordable Care Act, long-term substitute teachers who work 30 hours a week must be offered insurance by the district. Before, they had to work a minimum of 35 hours to qualify for insurance. Jacks said that's a potential extra cost of $200,000 for them.

"That's what our district is facing," said Jacks. "We're getting $800,000 but we're spending $1 million. So we're $200,000 in the hole, and that's not including any raises we're hoping to give our employees. We're being forced to make cuts to take care of the needs of the district."

Mohave Community College

Mohave Community College also dodged a bullet with the budget, which slashed higher education funding. The two largest community college districts - Maricopa and Pima - lost all their funding. Central Arizona College in Pinal County lost some funding, but will continue to receive about $2 million in state support.

The budget cut about $100 million from the state's other universities, but rural schools such as Mohave Community College would continue to receive money. Community colleges would be disqualified for state funds if they were located in counties with more than 350,000 residents.

"We were not included in the districts that were cut," said MCC President Michael Kearns. "We're still part of the formula funding, which is mainly based on head counts. So we'll get a little less money this year because of a dip in our enrollment, but that would have happened anyway."

The dip, said Kearns, will amount to about $36,000, or less than 1 percent of the annual budget.

Kearns said he knew in late January that MCC would keep most of its state funding after Ducey announced his proposed budget, and it was reiterated when the Legislature agreed and voted it through.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.