There are early indications that the Sahuarita Unified School District is recovering after losing about 9% of its students in 2020, but the district’s proposed budget still took a hit as a result of the drop.
On Wednesday, the proposed Maintenance & Operations budget of $42,859,442 was presented to the Governing Board. The district is confident the budget will allow it to continue services, programs and staffing without cuts, but they saw a decrease in several areas because of the enrollment drop.In total, the budget saw a decrease of over $714,000.
Superintendent Manny Valenzuela said there are still uncertainties about school finances this year but the budget will support their work.
“We feel confident at this point, based on what we know right now, that our priorities will be preserved,” he said. “We will keep people employed and continue implementation of our programs without systematic cuts.”
There were several categories in the budget affected by the lower enrollment data from 2020.
•Money from a voter-approved 14% Maintenance and Operations override decreased by $408,923 from last year.
•The Prop 123 adjustment saw a $14,543 drop. The proposition was passed in 2016, and allowed for an increase in payouts from the State Land Trust of 6.9 percent per year for the next decade for schools.
•SUSD lost $290,756 in District Additional Assistance, a state revenue source that districts can use for classroom resources and capital funding.
Budgeting this year took a cautious approach, and when they could, SUSD used a flat rate of enrollment, or the enrollment numbers at the end of May.
“We approached this from the standpoint of being very conservative and not making assumptions,” Valenzuela said. “We hope some of our enrollment declines are recovered this year.”
Valenzuela said the enrollment numbers are difficult to predict or analyze right now because there is still time to register for school. But the district has seen kindergarten enrollment rise by almost 20% over last year, which Valenzuela called “a good message of hope and optimism.”
The district has been focused on several efforts to bring back students it lost in the pandemic to home school or other options.
Along social media and flyers, it has done virtual open houses and reached out directly to SUSD students who have left.
“Principals and office staff took the list and made personal calls to those students checking in and seeing how they’re doing, inviting them to consider coming back,” he said. “We’ve had a favorable response and a lot of folks have made decisions this year with a desire to come back.”
Another challenge with the district’s budget is that the state budget was still unknown at the time after back and forth in the Legislature. It was approved Friday.
SUSD leadership is sure that additional funding sources from the Legislature will soon be more clear, and they expect more federal COVID-19 support dollars to come in.
While the budget did see losses due to the decline in enrollment in 2020, Valenzuela said other funding within the budget will compensate for it.
“We anticipate to cover or offset the deficits through utilization of our carry-forward and anticipated one-time monies such as federal stimulus dollars made available for this purpose,” he said.
The district has until July 15 to submit a final budget.