By Naomi Hatch
The Snowflake Unified School District Governing Board approved a $12,041,750 tentative budget for the coming year June 18.
“Basically, Governor Doug Ducey said, we’re going to cut and you’ll have to tell us how you’re going to deal with it,” said Business Manager Mark Ollerton regarding the $923,000 cut to the district made by the state.
Ollerton explained that the fiscal year 2015-16 budget has two options. Option A includes a 12.48-cent tax for Adjacent Ways, which is used to fix anything adjacent to school property. This would include the flooding issue at the football field, but the Town of Snowflake would need to be part of the solution and the district does not have the numbers to show what is needed for the project. Previously the money was used for the new parking lot at Snowflake High School.
Superintendent Hollis Merrell explained that the tentative budget will be published in the newspaper and will look as if they have added a new tax, but a 12.28-cent adjacent ways tax rate was approved in the 2014-15 fiscal year budget.
The primary tax rate for the 2015-16 fiscal year for Maintenance and Operations will increase by $1.30. Daily Average Attendance funding dropped 31.68 cents and Adjacent Ways will drop two-tenths of a cent. The debt service pays the bonds through the secondary tax rate and has dropped 9.81 cents due to the refinancing, which Ollerton noted is saving the district a lot of money. The total tax rate will increase by 88.7 cents for the fiscal year.
The formula used by the state takes the weighted student count and multiplies it by the base level, which is set by the state legislature. Student count for districts is defined as the prior year’s 100th day Average Daily membership. Fiscal Year 2014-15 showed a decline of 63.409 for preschool through 12th grade, and a weighted drop of 96.886. The total weighted student count is down 131.699 from 2013-14 fiscal year to the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Also included in the formula is the teachers’ experience, and the more experienced teachers are, the higher the salary. At the Snowflake District, the more experienced teachers are retiring so the teacher experience index is down and the district is seeing an effect of just over a $100,000 loss this year.
The 112 teachers in the district put the staff to pupil ratio at one teacher for 20.2 students. A total of 218 people are employed by the district, including 11 administrators, 34 teacher aides and other classified personnel.
Concern was raised by Board Member Carol Palmer regarding raising the tax rate.
“It wouldn’t be an increase to the tax,” explained Merrell, noting it would be maintaining the tax from the previous year; however, when published, the budget will look as if they are adding a 12-cent tax.
Board President Cory Johnson moved to approve the preliminary budget, keeping the 12-cent tax for adjacent ways. It passed unanimously.
At a March work session Board Member Charles Foote asked Ollerton to consider having a four percent carryover. Due to budget cuts, the district spent approximately $230,000 of that balance this year.
“I left the meeting with a goal to get the four percent carryover again,” said Ollerton, noting he wanted to accomplish this without hurting staff or students.
He explained that once the board approves the tentative budget, it will be advertised on the district website, where a copy of the summary can be easily accessed by the community, and in the newspaper. In July there will be a public hearing at which members of the public can ask questions or voice their opinions on the budget.