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Casa Grande Elementary School District

CASA GRANDE — The Casa Grande Elementary School District will cut a number of teaching positions as it grapples with a $1.2 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

The district’s Governing Board was last week it was projected to lose 146 students in the next school year — significantly impacting the amount of state funding the district may receive.

Because of declining enrollment and teacher attrition, the district has decided to cut 10 teaching positions from the district’s various schools. Two more special certified positions will be slashed from the district’s budget — one will be funded through federal dollars and the other will be eliminated.

CGESD Superintendent JoEtta Gonzales said the district is still examining some other teaching positions, but she doesn’t expect to cut many more positions by the time a budget is finalized later this spring.

According to district records, at least 23 teachers have submitted resignations in the last couple of months to leave the district by the end of May. So no teachers are losing their jobs due to shrinking enrollment, the superintendent said.

For classified jobs, like bus drivers and crossing guards, the superintendent said the district may not need to fill some of its positions. The district won’t need as many mechanics, she said, since it got a number of new buses this last year.

So far this month, the district has posted 10 job openings for teachers at Ironwood Elementary School, Villago Middle School and Saguaro Elementary.

Starting pay for these positions is $43,400, an increase of about $5,000 from a couple years ago. The school board granted a 10-percent salary boost last year to certified staff after teachers across Arizona walked out of classrooms and marched in Phoenix, demanding better pay.

Gov. Doug Ducey ended the teacher strike by promising a 20-percent pay raise for educators by 2020.

Minimum wage increases, higher utility costs and a 5-percent bump for teacher salaries are some factors contributing to the projected budget shortfall for the next school year.

Trends in public school enrollment have changed over the last decade. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Arizona experienced a 26-percent increase in public school enrollment between 2000 and 2015. The state’s projected enrollment is expected to grow by only 9 percent by 2027.

The district plans to introduce some budget-balancing strategies next month before the Governing Board.