The Tucson Unified School District is projected to have a $15 million budget deficit next academic year, according to school officials.
The announcement of the possible shortfall came as a surprise to the governing board but TUSD’s superintendent said the timing is right.
“We are standing here in September talking about a budget that will take effect July 1, 2015, and I rather be here talking about it now when there is an election in the horizon, when there are dollars out there that should be released, when we can still go to the table with the bargaining units and having those conversations as opposed to doing it all on the ninth hour,” TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said.
Sanchez said each year, the finance department at TUSD writes a report based on “worst case scenarios” but the results are not shared until “later in the process.”
TUSD’s Yousef Awwad announced the projected deficit this week, shortly before his resignation takes effect Oct. 1. As chief financial officer last year, he helped the district erase a $17 million deficit, in part by closing about 10 schools.
“Mr. Awwad was responding to a direct inquiry from (board member) Michael Hicks,” said Mark Stegeman, TUSD board member. “I have not had a chance to review the information fully, but it appears to indicate that TUSD is operating at a deficit that has been building for some time.”
Sanchez said he would bring in an outside expert to review TUSD’s finances.
The district could balance its budget if it receives the $15 million it is owed by the state as part of a $317 million school funding lawsuit that is requiring the state to boost funding for public and charter K-12 schools.