Tulsa Public Schools announced Tuesday it must cut $20 million from the annual operating budget to avoid a deficit in 2021. The district plans to immediately start a round of community meetings to restructure the district, and its budget, to make ends meet.
The plan is to create a new budget that could go to the Board of Education this December, with the changes at schools taking effect next school year.
The district said no money saving option was off the table, except for an agreement made to not close North Tulsa Schools for the next two years. The budget crisis could force the district to close multiple sites, and reconfigure grade structures at many others.
The district said it did not have a plan of how to implement the cutbacks, but would ask the community at a series of meetings over the next two months.
School Superintendent Deborah Gist will make a presentation to the board Tuesday night explaining the urgency and scope of what’s needed. The board has been briefed previously on the issue, but this will be the first direct discussion of it in public.
The district said continued declines in enrollment that impact state aid, and rising costs of education have the district spending it’s savings account, but that will be depleted within a year. The district tapped it for the first time in a decade last year, pulling $4 million dollars in the operating budget, and this year expects to pull $13-$17 million in. The process is unsustainable with a current balance of $30 million dollars, according to TPS CFO Nelberto Delgadillo.
"What I want parents to know in Tulsa is that I love this district as much as they do. Our board is also extraordinarily committed to Tulsa Public Schools and we are going to work this out together," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist.
The district is also launching an immediate plan to evaluate grade structures at all schools, and launch a unified enrollment application that would reflect whatever changes come out of that study.