TUSD #1 prepares for budget cuts

A janitor vacuums the floor of a classroom in Tombstone High School. Photo by: Emily Lai/Arizona Sonora News
A janitor vacuums the floor of a classroom in Tombstone High School. Photo by: Emily Lai/Arizona Sonora News

There hasn’t been an easy day for Robert Devere since he’s taken over as the superintendent for Tombstone Unified School District.

“He’s been working on how to make everything work with the state’s proposed budget cuts,” said TUSD’s Business Manager John Livingston. “That’s been his big project over the last couple of months.”

In the midst of Gov. Doug Ducey’s Executive Budget Proposal, which calls for a 5 percent cut in non-classroom spending, many of Arizona’s school districts are tasked with the labor of cutting more money out of an already limited budget.

In Arizona, the proposal could mean an over $100 million cut in things such as food service, transportation, libraries, teacher training, counseling and nursing services to public schools.

For TUSD and their three schools, Tombstone High School, Walter J. Meyer Elementary and Huachuca City Elementary School, it means they’ll have to cut at least $112,000 from their nearly $6.2 million budget.

“It’s been tough,” said Devere. “It’s especially hard because since 2008, we’ve seen continued cuts to our budget.”

Devere and the administrative staff are taking what he calls a creative approach to solving the budgeting problem.

“We’re looking at every way we can make cuts to the budget without affecting the classroom,” said Devere.

Thus far, it’s meant cuts to the administrative, support and maintenance staff. These cuts have been a gradual process of attrition rather than lay-offs.

“Naturally, people will find other jobs and venture elsewhere,” said Devere. “Once they do, it means their position will be left unfilled and we’ll operate with fewer staff.”

For the upcoming year, there’ll be a nearly 40 percent decrease in the amount of employed janitors and maintenance workers, said Devere. There will also be a decrease in operating expenses because the account payable and general clerical position at the administrative office will be left unfilled. As a result, the remaining staff will have to take on more responsibilities.

A janitor at Tombstone High School taking out the thrash. Photo by: Emily Lai/Arizona Sonora News
A janitor at Tombstone High School takes out the thrash. Photo by: Emily Lai/Arizona Sonora News

Huachuca City Elementary, which serves preschool to eighth grade students, will also be undergoing some changes. In previous years, only seventh and eighth graders were considered to be a part of the junior high curriculum. Now, the junior high will also include sixth graders.

Doing so, allows for more balance and flexibility. It’s a money-saving measure because it means the district will not need to hire extra staff or faculty, said Devere.

The bulk of the remaining cuts will come from the instructional improvement and unrestricted capital outlay funds. These funds account for expenses such as buses, textbooks and buildings.

When it comes to classroom spending per student, TUSD falls $2,300 below national averages, according to statistics from Arizona’s Office of the Auditor General. But despite these obstacles, many in the community remain confident in their school district.

After all, the residents here live in a place that’s known as “the town too tough to die.”

“We’ll make the best out of it,” said Devere. “We’ve got some dedicated teachers and a great community behind us.”

Kethia Kong is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at kkong@email.arizona.edu.

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