TUSD Town Hall: Digging out of the debt
Public weighs in on how the district should deal with a 17 million dollar budget shortfall.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- A 17 million dollar budget shortfall and that's a conservative estimate. TUSD is hoping the school community can come up with some ideas on how to dig the district out of debt.
The first of three town halls was held at Sahuaro High School on Monday night. The Governing Board is developing a School Master Plan to address five critical areas: Academic Achievement, Equity and Diversity, Services and Programs, Facilities and Finances. The district said it's facing substantial budget challenges due to demographic shifts in the community, declining enrollment, reduced state funding, and escalating expenses for utilities and maintenance.
Superintendent John Pedicone first spelled out the the harsh realities facing TUSD. "We have to make some hard decisions for the sake of our students and families," he told the audience.
On the large screen, charts showed the possible scenarios that could help reduce a $17 million gap between revenues and costs. Parents and TUSD staff filled out surveys -- giving them a chance to weigh in on how the TUSD Board should make decisions on the budget. Some possible scenarios ranges from eliminating programs to longer school years. And then the audience lined up to speak out-- while district staff left the stage.
Many voiced their dissatifaction with the district, including Janna Happel, a parent of two students in Tucson High School. KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos asked, "What do you expect will come out of this?" Happel answered, "Nothing. Nothing. They're not listening. They're not on the stage. We're not talking to them. They show they're not listening to us. Appearences matter."
However, others offered their ideas to fix the problems and showed support of the district's decisions. Carlos Ibarra, a parent of two, said, "They (parents) should try to find a solution to the problem instead of pointing fingers, you know what I mean."
And that's what Board member Micheal Hicks is counting on. Cavazos asked Hicks if he was expecting the public to offer more ideas. "I wanted more of the communities input on things we need to do to try to get through the issues we have with the budget."
Two other town halls are scheduled this week:
Wednesday, August 22nd 6:30-8:30 pm
Cholla Magnet High School Auditorium
Saturday, August 25th 10am - noon
Catalina Magnet High School Auditorium
This is the first phase of a year long process. Board member Michael Hicks tells KGUN9 that he's hoping that more parents show up to fill out the surveys and voice their opinions.
The town halls are being videotaped and made available through the district website so those who are not able to attend the public meetings can still participate and offer ideas via an online survey.