$10 million cut from Arizona Department of Education's budget
KINGMAN - In the past week, the Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne regretfully had to inform area schools of his decision to cut $10 million from the Department of Education budget, in answer to this year's $1.2 billion total shortfall. In a memo addressed to public school officials throughout the state, Horne said he managed to cut funding without causing "significant impact" on school operations.
The cuts aren't over. Next year's projected deficit is already flirting with the $2 billion mark, and Horne has said an additional $10 million in cuts he's being asked to make will lead to unavoidable financial impacts for the state's public schools.
The prospect of even more cuts for next year is a sour one for the Kingman Unified School District's Director of Finance, Wanda Hubbard. She said KUSD has already had to make a number of painful, if not outright damaging cuts, and if the district is forced to cut more fat, it's only a matter of time before they nick an artery.
"We have received cuts in our tutoring program," Hubbard said. "Which, incidentally, really hurt us because those are the kids who most need the help."
In addition, she said, KUSD has had to cut funding for its preschool program and its Structured English Immersion program, which helps equip instructors to teach students who are themselves still learning the English language. The cuts have also forced the district to prepare for an unprecedented cash flow problem.
"About 50 percent of our entire funding comes from state equalization," Hubbard said. "They will be delaying our June payment until August."
That means while the district would still get the same amount of money from the state, the delay of payment could force the district to borrow from the county to meet its summer operating expenses - another unwelcome first for KUSD.
"If we have to borrow, hopefully there will be interest (in the delayed state payment) to offset the interest (paid to the county)," Hubbard said. "But that's an unknown at this point."
The Department of Education isn't the only state entity being forced to make cuts, either. The State School Facilities Board, which provides KUSD with the funds to maintain and renew its buildings, has cut the district's funding by half this year, and Hubbard has heard rumblings that suggest next year may see the remaining half cut as well.
"That's a huge one for us," she said. "If we didn't have our bond money right now, we'd be in dire trouble."
If the district does lose its remaining building funds, Hubbard said that would require the district to find the money elsewhere - in other words, they might have to tap the general fund, which pays for salaries and elective programs. First and foremost, Hubbard said, the district would continue to educate its students, no matter the hardships. All the same, she hoped the state would keep in mind the importance enrichment programs have to a child's education.