Chandler Unified also sees big budget increase - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Unified also sees big budget increase

August 3rd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Unified also sees big budget increase

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

The Chandler Unified Governing Board got its first look at the real budget numbers for the 2022-23 school year last week and saw a lot more money and a falling tax rate.

However, because of rising home values, homeowners may actually see their tax bills go up.

Lana Berry, the district’s chief financial officer noted, “There was a huge surplus in the state funds and there was a lot of negotiation based on a number of needs across our state, with K-12 being one of those.”

The CUSD Board approved a budget of just under $470 million, a $19.6 million increase over the placeholder budget it approved in June.

Most of the increase is in the maintenance and operations portion of the budget, which jumped by about $17.2 million to $365.8 million. The capital improvement fund increased just under $2.5 million to $43.3 million.

The $60.9 the district gets from the federal government did not change.

The increase is even greater when compared to last year’s budget. That came about because the state had a huge surplus of cash because of increasing tax revenues. The bipartisan budget deal decided to give substantially more to education.

State legislators agreed to add an additional $526 million in base funding, Berry said. She added that this is ongoing, and not a one-time event.

It’s not certain if property owners will see a tax increase or decrease this year. Most of the school board’s portion of the property tax rate is beyond its control.

The state sets the Qualifying Tax Rate and voters decide if they will fund bonds and the override increase. The only portion of the tax the Governing Board controls is the adjacent ways tax. That funds improvements on property near district land. For example, changing a roadway next to a school to improve traffic flow for parents dropping off, or picking up their kids.

The school board’s portion of the property tax was $6.08 for every $100,000 of assessed value. This year’s proposed tax is $5.97, a drop of 15 cents.

Most Valley homes have increased significantly in value, jumping 30 or more percent. However, the state limits the increase that property owners can pay in a year to 5 percent.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to cut their tax rate by the largest margin in decades.

CUSD has the second lowest property tax rate of East Valley school districts, only trailing Gilbert Public Schools, 5.9695 and 5.7815, respectively.

Most of the increases were approved at previous budget meetings.

The board approved a number of new projects costing $5,000 or more. It agreed to give teachers a raise of 2 to 4%, which amounts to a $5.2 million increase. It also agreed to hand out a number of one-time retention bonus checks, which totaled nearly $5.9 million.

The average teacher salary in CUSD is $63,447. Last year that number was $62,637.

Then there were a number of new programs that needed funding. The board approved about $7.5 million for those, and close to $2.5 million for capital needs (computers, furniture, etc.).

The district is feeling the large increase in fuel prices just like most families. The state did not increase its transportation funding for districts, so most of that increase will have to be paid for out of the maintenance and operations funds, Berry said.

And Berry said the district has a healthy reserve of more than $100 million in case of a recession or dramatic cut in funding.

Berry said they have not received the final numbers on how much CUSD will get in results-based funding. That’s the amount districts are awarded for student achievements.

CUSD usually ranks first in the state in that category and is anticipating at least $3.2 million. The district could also get around $1.3 million for the College Credit by Examination Incentive Program.

Those final numbers are expected soon.