The Fountain Hills Unified School District Governing Board unanimously approved the Revised Budget for 2022-2023 last Monday, May 15. FHUSD saw a 29.34 increase in Average Daily Membership (ADM) this year, and the district’s general budget limit was increased by $108,865 from the adoption of the budget in June 2022 due to this increased enrollment.
The Board held a public hearing on the revised budget, but no members of the public came forward to speak or attended in person. Board member Madicyn Reid asked how and when public notice was given for the special meeting.
The public hearing was mentioned by Board president Jill Reed at the end of the regular business meeting on May 9, and 24-hour notice was given through the district’s website. Jeremy Calles, a co-founder of TRUE Professionals LLC, has served as a financial consultant to FHUSD this fiscal year, and he explained the May revision budget hearings as a “technical cleanup,” and added that they have “very little substance.”
“I know that I did four May revisions on [May] 9 [for other districts],” Calles said. “It was a very popular day, but I didn’t have much of an audience for any of those May revisions either. The most popular budget that you’ll get will be your proposed and adopted budget because that one impacts the tax rate.”
The Board will meet twice in June and, according to Reed, they will discuss the proposed and adopted budget for 2023-24 on Wednesday, June 28. There will also be a business meeting on Wednesday, June 7, and the meeting agendas are not available at the time of writing.
Calles said that most of the changes between FHUSD’s proposed and revised budgets are shifts in allocation. Arizona schools are funded through ADM, and they used to use the previous year’s ADM count for funding. Now schools are required to guess their current year ADM in June, over a month before the first day of school, and then adjust their budget as needed during revision meetings.
Enrollment and ADM are not one and the same. Enrollment is how many students there are at a specific point in time – i.e., Oct. 1 – and ADM is an average of how many students attend for the first 100 days of 180 academic instruction days. Kindergarten students are also only counted as half a person in ADM calculations.
There were 1,191 enrolled students in FHUSD by May 2022 according to Superintendent Dr. Cain Jagodzinski. There were 62 more exiting seniors than incoming kindergarten students, and it looked like the declining enrollment trend would continue.
However, the meeting minutes publicly available on FHUSD’s website showed enrollment was at 1,211 on October 5, 2022, and rose to 1,255 by March 8, 2023.
From 2018 to 2020, ADM dropped by an average of 42.34 each year, with the biggest loss in one year reaching 75.82. Then, from 2021 to 2022, ADM dropped by 145.75. Several factors contributed to this mass exodus, including FHUSD’s then-Superintendent being put under investigation and the elementary school principal resigning, both within the first 100 days.
This year’s ADM increased but is still lower than 2021. Jagodzinski has met with parents and stakeholders and has tried to address the individual reasons they left the district. He hasn’t solved every issue yet, but he believes the increased enrollment this year proves he's heading in the right direction.
Jagodzinski is also encouraged by early preschool registration numbers. McDowell Mountain Elementary School Principal Kevin Wilkinson reported preschool enrollment was 29 in January of this year, and Jagodzinski said they already have 50 registered preschoolers for next year.
Staff turnover has also lessened with Jagodzinski at the helm. He reported a 91% staff retention rate after contracts were issued this spring, and hopes the consistency helps grow the district.
The state legislature already approved funding for public schools for the 2023-24 school year, which will allow FHUSD to put forward their proposed budget on time. Calles said there will be incoming state funds for one-time funding, and other adjustments for inflation, and TRUE Professionals LLC will have precise numbers for the Board to view at their next public hearing on the budget.
All Board meetings are held in the FHUSD Learning Center and are livestreamed and recorded on the FHUSD YouTube channel. The next meeting will be Wednesday, June 7, at 6 p.m.