Tulsa Public Schools expects to spend $3 million less than what the district originally budgeted for this school year.
The district’s midyear budget adjustment, which was presented to school board members Monday night, shows an overall expenditure of $636 million for the 2018-19 school year. TPS officials initially projected spending about $639 million, according to the preliminary budget approved in June.
The midyear adjustment for the general fund — the revenue source that pays the majority of the district’s costs — is nearly $331 million, compared to the preliminary estimate of $335 million.
Chief Financial Officer Nolberto Delgadillo said savings because of vacancies are the primary reason for the decrease. Many positions remain unfilled, he said, while others were filled halfway through the fiscal year.
As a result, the district expects to use about $6 million of its fund balance instead of the originally projected $8 million.
In the grand scheme of things, Delgadillo said, he’s a “little torn” about how to react to the savings.
“From a strategic perspective, we want to make sure we hire folks,” he said. “If we aren’t attracting people to fill those roles, then there’s some analysis to be done there because we felt that all of these roles are important and critical to fulfill our mission. But, of course, from the fiscal side of things, it’s a good thing we aren’t having to use that much of our fund balance.”
The district also presented its 2019-20 staffing plan at the board meeting. Delgadillo said it was designed to avoid reducing services for students, families, teachers and school leaders.
Next year’s plan appears similar to this year’s as a way of maintaining a consistent staffing plan, he said. The district is not increasing class sizes, and allocation ratios for elementary and secondary teachers will remain the same.
To increase clarity about staffing plan flexibilities provided to school leaders, the guidelines for allocation conversion now include information about acquiring an assistant principal. Staffing allocation conversion allows school leaders to take allocations for one position and trade them for another that’s more needed.
“We are adding additional flexibility by clarifying that a school leader, if they opt to, can trade in two teacher allocations for that of an assistant principal if it makes sense for them,” Delgadillo said.
Additional modifications include calibrating the assistant principal allocations for middle and high school combination campuses to better align with a single high school campus.
Another involves combining the two academic engagement teacher allocations with those of the 11 priority assistant principal allocations that are assigned to instructional leadership directors to create 15 supplemental support allocations that can be used for either position depending on the directors’ needs.
“The goal of these changes in the staffing plan is to allow for more strategic flexibility at the school level verses it being prescriptive at the finance level,” Delgadillo said.
The Tulsa school board will vote on the approval of the midyear budget adjustment and the 2019-20 staffing plan in a later meeting.
In other news, the board approved the submission of the Tulsa Beyond application for Empowered Schools Act status to the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
If the application is approved by the state board, three of the four high schools with Tulsa Beyond status would receive more statutory and regulatory freedom as they implement their new school models starting in the 2019-20 academic year. Empowered Schools Act status would provide flexibilities for graduation requirements, attendance and credit-earning opportunities.
Additionally, TPS has hired KTUL journalist Lauren Partain as manager of media relations. Partain will begin her job April 1 and serve under Communications Director Emma Garrett-Nelson.
The position, which pays $62,000 annually, is responsible for day-to-day management and strategic oversight of media relations and social media for the district.