The beginning of the new calendar year marks the half-way point in the school year. Across the state, funding cuts dominate the financial forecast for all public agencies. For Tahlequah Public Schools, there is good news and bad news.
The bad news. Earlier this month, officials informed public education to expect a minimum 3 percent reduction in state funding. The cuts will be realized in the State Aid Formula, the Flexible Benefit Allowance, and line item cuts to the Oklahoma State Department of Education Activity Account (an additional category of State funds for school districts). TPS will see a reduction of nearly $230,000. The deduction will be realized in the monthly payments received throughout the second semester, January through June 2016.
The good news. The student enrollment for TPS has increased over 100 students from the previous school year, which equated to a positive mid-term State Aid adjustment of $835,000. The mid-term adjustment is a revised allocation notice of State funding to school districts based on a student count on October 1. Our district was not taken by surprise. Planning and preparation for the anticipated revisions began in September. The increase is a much welcomed part of our budget strategy as we continue this school year. The budget is linked to a strategic plan with each element intended for a purpose or goal. The focus on student instruction remains at the top of the list of priorities.
We track and monitor our operating budget on a daily basis and purposefully balance the use of both the General and Building funds, allowing for flexible spending and maintaining a healthy cash flow balance. There is a perpetual approach to spend with savings. This year, TPS applied for and received Qualified Zone Academy Bonds. The low interest bonds are paid to the district upfront, with a repayment plan over the next ten years. This is the third time since 2004 that Tahlequah schools has received this type of funding. The money will be used to replace over fifty heating and air conditioning units throughout the district, repair roofs, and upgrade the energy management system which has contributed substantial savings on utility costs since it was first installed. Investing in our infrastructure has proven to be one of our most effective money-saving strategies.
These are key efficiency indicators that play an important role to help determine the maximum performance of resources and the effectiveness of a school district in achieving student performance goals. It is our objective to continue providing a quality education in the most efficient way. In addition to classroom instruction, the number and quality of basic services provided to our students include: food service, transportation, utilities and technology. Additional direct services to students include: mentoring, remediation, tutoring, athletics, the after-school program, school resource officers, therapeutic counseling and many more. Each of these services includes a cost and a decrease in funding does not mean that students no longer need the services. It means, we work harder and more creatively to continue funding current services offered to students.
The mid-term adjustment increased the total revised State Aid allocation for 2015-16 to $13,386,000. While the increase is a welcome note in the overall big picture, the amount is still well below the $14,420,000 received in the 2008-09 school year. We are constantly challenged to do more with less. As we begin planning and preparation for the next school year budget, there is already news that we will expect even more budget cuts. We anticipate the upcoming legislative session and hope for solutions to this challenge to adequately fund public education.