Schools will have less money per students than anticipatedBy Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX Arizona schools are going to have less money per student than they anticipated this year and even less than that next year because of poor sales tax collections and lousy returns on the state’s investment.
The news from legislative budget staffers is on top of the $133 million lawmakers took from K12 funding in January. And it would be on top of another $330 million in cuts to public school spending being weighed by Republican legislative leaders.
But unlike the legislative changes, there is no recourse for educators to argue: The funding is set by formula.
Some of the cash comes from a measure approved by voters in 2000 which hiked the state sales tax by sixtenths of a cent to its current 5.6 percent. Most of the dollars raised are earmarked for classroom spending, including teacher salaries.
The problem is that the state and national economic slump has resulted in people buying less, especially nonessential items like cars which raise a lot of taxes.
Legislative staffers had presumed that 0.6cent levy would raise $663.5 million this fiscal year. The actual collections are coming in closer to $575 million; next year they will drop even further, to $560 million.
The other part of the problem is also related to the economy but in a different way.
That classroom site fund also is supposed to get any earnings from the sale and lease of state trust lands above $72.3 million. Legislative budget staffers had pegged that figure at nearly $115.8 million for this year.
For next year, those earnings for the fund will shrink to less than $20 million.
Some of that is because sales of state trust lands has slowed. And some is because the cash the state treasurer invests is not bringing in anywhere near as much in earnings.
The bottom line is that schools, which were told they would get $390 per pupil this budget year are going to get just $328. And the figure for next year is now estimated at $244.