Tulsa Schools Dip Into Savings To Pay Teachers

Thursday, April 13th 2017, 6:12 pm

The numbers range from $35,000 to $830,000; that's this month's budget cuts for school districts in Tulsa County.

It's important to note that teachers will get paid, but this is payroll money being cut. Schools are adjusting by spending money they would normally be saving to make it through the summer.

The cuts continue to state services, with schools learning Wednesday just how great the cut would be this month.

At Union Public Schools, the April cut is $373,000.

Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler said, "From July 1 to Jun 30 we're locked in. At Union, we have 2,000 employees."

The superintendent said it's tough to manage this year's cuts and plan next year.

“Every week that goes by, when we don't know what our budget is going to be, it's frustrating and it's very challenging for our schools,” Hartzler said.

The payroll for school teachers comes from the state, but there's not enough money in the account. The state is only sending what it has, and local districts are dipping into savings to pay teachers.

4/12/2017 Related Story: Oklahoma Cuts Monthly Support Checks To Schools

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said, "The difference this year is that there are no reserves. The state has nothing in reserve to be able to augment those funds and it's devastating for schools."

Hofmeister said even though schools have dealt with budget reductions all year, more are coming before the end of this school year.

"It's coming at a very difficult time. We know there will be expected losses in each month through the end of the school year, and we're bracing ourselves each month to see how great that hole will be," she said.

Hartzler said Union can't keep using reserves, and the continued cuts will mean fewer teachers at his school and everywhere else.

"It will certainly close schools in Oklahoma, and it will put everything we're offering to our kids, and the services we're providing, on the table for cuts because at some point you've got to balance the budget," he said.

Schools can keep no more than 14 percent of their budget in savings, so while that's a cushion, it won't last if the legislature doesn't fix the budget.