Due to low oil prices and lower revenues, Tulsa Public Schools announced it would cut its spending by $2.1 million for the current school year.
The Oklahoma Board of Education cut $47 million from the current budget after state financial officials reported shortfalls. Oklahoma is heavily dependent on taxes from the oil and natural gas industry. The price of a barrel of oil has plummeted from $103 to around $30 in under two years. More than half of the state’s budget – more than $5 billion a year – goes to public education.
“This $2.1 million reduction in the district’s budget is significant for Tulsa Public Schools, but we have been able to manage it so far by being strategic in choosing where we make cuts,” said Deborah A. Gist, superintendent. “We will make adjustments to spending as needed, though it gets increasingly difficult, as the budget we built for the 2015-16 school year was lean from the start. Further cuts are expected for this year, but we will maintain a balanced budget. In addition, we are considering the difficult steps we will need to take given the significant reductions we expect for the next school year. Our plan is to protect classrooms and school sites to the fullest extent possible and make reductions that directly affect classrooms only as a last resort.”
TPS has reductions in state aid ($1.2 million), flexible benefits allowance ($751,319), alternative education ($47,249), professional development ($120,005) and national board certification ($19,408). The district has had a limited hiring freeze and reductions in travel plus slowing down the replacement of some vacancies. Officials say some money has been saved by making worker’s compensation more efficient.
“We will continue to work tirelessly to educate our students,” said Gist, “and we will attempt to protect jobs and avoid any staff reductions during the current year. In the meantime, I am encouraging all TPS staff to help us draw the line on our expenses. Parents and public education supporters need to remain watchful and vigilant as the state budget shortfall continues to unfold.”