Oklahoma’s ongoing financial woes are forcing Ada City Schools officials to make ends meet with fewer state dollars.
The school district has lost $377,952 in state aid — roughly 3 percent of its budget — since January, Superintendent Mike Anderson said this past week. If budget shortfalls continue, that figure could be as high as $600,000 by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
Anderson said the district experienced a similar situation last year, but lawmakers tapped the state’s rainy-day fund to soften the impact of those cuts. As a result, the district recovered about 46 percent of its lost state aid.
But that option is no longer available to lawmakers.
“They used one-time funding to make up the budget hole,” Anderson said. “That one-time funding is now gone. The rainy-day fund is broke, so there won’t be any rainy-day money coming our way.”
Oklahoma school districts were slated to receive their monthly payments from the state on Thursday. But on Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Department of Revenue notified districts that state revenue collections had missed the mark in the 1017 Fund and the Common Education Technology Revenue Fund — two revenue streams that contribute to state aid for schools.
The Tulsa World reported Wednesday that school districts’ monthly payments will be shorted an additional $17.4 million in April, bringing total reductions since January to nearly $87 million.
Ada City Schools was originally slated to receive $900,776 in state aid for April, but that figure has since been cut to $721,339 due to the state’s budget crunch.
District officials kept the possibility of funding cuts in mind when they drew up the budget for the current fiscal year, Anderson said.
“This current year, we cut over $1 million out of our budget in payroll alone,” he said. “We have encumbered close to $2 million less than we have at this time last year. So we’ve made cuts up front.
“That was done in hopes that funding would come in at a sufficient level to allow us to protect our fund balance and to improve on our fund balance, because we also know that cuts are going to come again next year.”
Anderson said officials hoped to build a cushion that would help the district absorb another round of reductions in state aid, which would make it easier to avoid budget cuts for fiscal year 2018. But as more reductions are announced, creating that cushion becomes even more difficult.
District officials have already taken steps to cut costs, such as monitoring utility bills, entering into a new agreement for supplying fuel for buses and other district-owned vehicles, and implementing a hiring freeze. The district is not hiring new teachers or support staff, but it is rehiring current employees who are planning to return next year.
If the state continues to reduce aid to schools, officials will have to consider more drastic measures, Anderson said. Those steps could include eliminating certain programs, tweaking school calendars and reducing district-level functions such as maintenance and custodial service.
Anderson said district officials have discussed those options but have not made any decisions yet.“It’s just us doing our due diligence and laying it all out there, trying to determine how each one of these strategies might affect educating our children,” he said. “And prioritizing.”