By Mark Carlisle
The Litchfield Elementary School District Governing Board approved a $94 million budget for the upcoming school year this month.
The district lowered its property tax levy, though many homeowners in and around Litchfield Park will still see their property taxes rise because of increased property values.
The district will spend a base pay of $4,202 on each LESD student, up about $193 from last year.
The cost of the $94 million budget will be split mostly between local taxpayers and taxpayers statewide. Federal funding accounts for $7 million of the budget.
Local taxpayers will foot the bill for $31 million, or 36% of the remaining $87 million. The rest, about $57 million, will be funded by the state legislature with tax revenue shared across all Arizona public school districts.
“The (state) legislature set amounts, and then it’s based on the number of students we have in the classrooms and the number of miles we transport students,” said Wendy D. Qualls, the LESD business manager.
LESD estimates it average 10,430 students in class each day in the coming school year, but its estimated total student count, which includes special education students, will be 13,844. District buses travel about 4,948 miles per day while transporting students.
“The state first looks and asks, ‘How much can your local taxpayers pay toward this budget?’” Ms. Qualls said. “So, they give us the qualifying tax rate and say, ‘Before you get state money, you have to get money from your voters and your taxpayers,’ and this is the amount it generates. And then the amount that’s left is funded with state funds.”
Most of the budget, $57.6 million, will be spent on regular education, $12.6 million will be spent on special education, $3.9 million on transportation and $592,000 on K-3 reading.
The state and locally funded monies in the budget are split between a $74.7 million maintenance and operations budget, which covers salary, benefits and daily operations cost, and a $12.4 million capital fund, “which (is) for permanent things like buildings, furniture, textbooks, musical equipment, things like that,” Ms. Qualls said.
The M&O budget increased $2.7 million, or 3.75%, from last school year.
Of the $12.4 million for capital improvements, $7.1 million will fund new furniture, equipment and vehicles; $4.5 million will fund facility improvements and replacements and $480,000 will fund new textbooks, library books and instructional aids.
Most of the M&O budget, 85.6 percent, will fund teacher and staff salaries and benefits.
The district’s adjacent ways fund, which pays for things like fire lanes, offsite utilities, driveways and buses has a balance of nearly $378,000, part of which will be used to fund a new bus route for Wigwam Creek Middle School, 4510 N. 127th Ave.
The district will not collect any property tax revenue for this fund next year.
“Once we know we’re going to build a new school, then we’ll start to build the tax back up,” Ms. Qualls said.
The district’s overall property tax levy will decrease slightly from $3.67 per $100 of assessed property value to an estimated $3.39 per $100 of assessed property value. Homeowners in some areas may see their overall property taxes slightly decrease as a result, but homeowners in other areas will see slight increases because of an increase in property values.
The budget was approved on a 3-0 vote by board president Danielle Clymer and board members Alayne Weathersby and Melissa Zuidema in a meeting at Litchfield Elementary School, 255 W. Wigwam Boulevard. Board members Kimberly Moran and Dr. Tawnya Pfitzer were absent for the vote.