EDMOND — Continued enrollment growth, the opening of a new elementary campus and state and federal funding cuts have school officials taking a hard look at budgets for the next two fiscal years.
“To maintain current programs, support the added operations of a new elementary school and cover annual operating expense increases, would necessitate a budget increase,” said Lori Smith, Edmond Public School District controller and assistant treasurer.
This year's general fund budget, for the fiscal year that ends June 30, is $133.4 million, Smith said. Revenues and expenses have not been determined for the 2013-14 budget year.
School officials might not find out how much money they have to operate with until state legislators decide during the upcoming session.
“We need assistance from the state,” said David Goin, school superintendent. “That's the long and short of it.”
“With 95 percent of our general fund tied up in salaries, there isn't a lot left over to go towards other areas,” Smith said. “If the state does not increase funding for common education we could be forced to increase class size, reduce positions and eliminate programs.”
Such changes could be possible within the next two years without adequate funding, Smith said.
Expenses can fluctuate after the budget is approved. For example, this year the district spent $75,000 more on transportation fuel than budgeted. Other expenses included an additional $85,000 for insurance and $25,000 for student drug testing.
The total payroll cost is expected to increase by $6.5 million for this fiscal year, school officials said.
This year's expenses will include $2.7 million in new employee payroll costs, $4.2 million in salary increases and a new elementary school that will cost the district $1.5 million in operating expenses during its first year.
The district has one early childhood center, 15 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools and a total of 22,500 students. Over the last four years the district has grown by 2,200.
Oklahoma voters in November passed two state questions that will reduce the amount of funding the district will get from district taxpayers.
State Question 766 abolished property taxes on intangible personal property statewide. State Question 758 lowered the cap of property valuation increases from 5 percent per year to 3 percent.
“We are going to lose some local funding due to property tax measures that were passed by voters,” Smith said.
School officials estimated in this year's budget summary that the passage of State Question 766 could cause an immediate loss of $50 million in tax revenue to schools, career technology centers and county government.
Voters approved the state questions out of legitimate economic concerns, State Sen. Clark Jolley said.
“The alternative was to have an incredibly large tax increase,” Jolley said.
Jolley said he thinks the district will receive additional funding but none to make up for the loss from passage of the state questions.
“The schools are asking for more than the state has,” Jolley said. “I support educational funding because I think these are legitimate concerns, but we have to face the reality that there are others that are calling for our dollars. Education is a priority but it's just not possible to give them additional funding and the money lost from the passage of the state questions.”
The district has had a reduction in federal funding.
“The federal stimulus that was given to us in 2009 ended this year,” Smith said, referring to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act that congress and President Barack Obama issued in 2009, which included money for education.
School Board President Jamie Underwood said the consequences of not receiving additional state funding are hard to face.
“What would suffer would be the quality of education,” Underwood said. “We are very proud of the quality of education we provide here in Edmond, and we work hard with the Legislature to make sure we can continue saying that.”