MUSD board OKs budget with 3% raise as finance dept. earns awards

The MUSD Business Services Department received awards in financial reporting. Photo by Michelle Chance

A new $43 million school budget was approved Wednesday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District unanimously adopted its 2017-18 budget after months of deliberation.

Working mostly behind the scenes were MUSD Business Services Director Aron Rausch and his staff.

Marked with a smile and donned with a money-printed tie, Rausch presented the board with his team’s finalized budget. It is a task he and his team have worked on for months and were happy to be nearing the finish line on Wednesday night.

“We started this in December,” Rausch said in regards to the budget. “All of the communication and all of the input all the way through now, and it’s July. Months and months and months of work.”

The adopted budget approval puts to rest a controversial debate over employees’ cost-of-living adjustment. The budget allows for a 3-percent increase in employee pay across the board.

However, a formal vote on the district’s budget for its maintenance and operation account was delayed until the board’s next meeting in August.

At the board’s previous meeting, “budget option 2” was the preferred budget out of three options.

This option included a 3 percent pay increase for all employees among other expenditures for the account’s $1.25 million.

Board member Torri Anderson said during Wednesday’s meeting that although the board agreed on the budget line items, she expressed desire to take a formal vote on it.

In previous years, Anderson said the board voted on which budget option they preferred, rather than moving forward through an informal consensus.

Anderson said although board members had expressed their preference for the budget option in conversations with Superintendent Steve Chestnut, it was her desire to express that decision in a public setting.

 “We can certainly all agree, but I feel more comfortable if we took a formal vote approving option two as a board, so it wasn’t just conversations off to the side, so that the public knew this is what we approved,” Anderson said.

The board is scheduled to take the vote at its next board meeting in August.

Rausch said that the board has approved the overall adopted budget, including the “budget option two” expenditures within the M&O account.

“Our school board wanted to endorse the budget option two in its entirety,” Rausch said.

The passing of the budget came the same night as the business department was awarded two certificates highlighting the district’s financial reports from 2016.

This is the 10th consecutive year MUSD has received both awards, Chestnut said.

The first was the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Association of School Business Officials International.

“The district was recognized for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending 2016,” according to ASBO International.

Next was the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for excellence in Financial Reporting presented to the district for the same financial report.

“There are only a handful of schools in the state that have received both of these awards, but we are proud of the good work in that office and we know that it’s led by Mr. Rausch, but it’s very much a team effort and he’d be the first to tell you that,” Chestnut said.  

Photo by Michelle Chance