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School officials explore budget options

Mustang Public Schools officials are drafting three options for the school district’s budget for the next fiscal year due the coronavirus crisis and the oil industry downturn.
One option will project spending based on flat revenue, one on a 1% reduction and one on a 2% reduction, Chief Financial Officer Nancy McKay told the school board in its remote meeting Monday.
The school district has several financial safeguards, she said.
First, property owners paid their taxes at a 97% rate, which is excellent.
‘Our patrons are amazing,” she said. “The 97% is really above and beyond what other school districts experience.”
Second, the federal stimulus package includes $500,000 for Mustang schools as part of the $160 million going to Oklahoma schools.
The $500,000 should make up for an expected reduction in the gross production tax on oil and gas wells.
Third, state officials have promised to “hold harmless” schools for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July, meaning they intend to provide revenue equal to this year.
“We’re trusting that the state and federal government will come through on their commitments, but we want to ensure we have a safeguard in place (with the three options),” McKay said. “I’m being conservatively optimistic. I believe this situation is short-lived.”
Many community members weren’t able to get access to the short meeting until late into the session, and some never got on while it was in progress.
Officials posted the recording shortly after the meeting concluded.
During the meeting, Superintendent Charles Bradley reported on the first week of distance learning.
“It is going really well,” he said. “Like anything you roll out there, there are going to be some speed bumps.
I think our teachers and our principals and our academic team have done a fantastic job of navigating that.”
The schools are guided in three E’s in the new approach.
“We’re going to engage, encourage and empathize,” Bradley said.
Teachers are reaching out to parents who haven’t communicated with them, he said.
The approach to graduation still hasn’t been set, he said.
High school Principal Kathy Knowles is meeting with students on plans, and officials hope to have a decision by the end of the week, Bradley said.
“We haven’t given up on what we call a real graduation, an actual ceremony,” he said. “We’re still keeping that in the options bag.”

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