Tulsa School Superintendent Keith Ballard released the following statement on the proposal to increase teacher pay with carry over funds:
“No one supports increased teacher pay more than I do. In fact, teachers at Tulsa Public Schools received a modest step increase on the first day of school, and we are in the process of finalizing negotiations regarding pay with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. Since 2008, we have worked diligently to cut expenses at the district when we lost $22.8 million in funding. That work has already been done. My financial priorities now are teacher pay and increasing the number of teaching positions. I would also argue that there is room for a pay increase among our principal ranks. ““With regard to the suggestion that we pay for a $2,000-per-year pay increase for teachers with the district’s carryover funds, that would not be a fiscally responsible position. Carryover funds are reserve funds that are used primarily to manage cash flow from fiscal year to fiscal year. By law, districts are allowed 14 percent carryover. TPS’sending fund balance for 2012-13 is $20.7 million, or 6.8 percent of revenue, which is well below what state law allows. “The estimated cost for a $2,000 increase to teachers (including benefits) would be $6.6 million. Because we were extremely conservative in our spending last year, we have already taken some of the carryover funds and spent an additional $2 million on reading materials to help improve literacy. In addition, we spent $2.5 million on one-time payments to staff (a 2013-14 expense). “To suggest that carryover funds be used to cover teacher raises is a poor solution, especially given the decline in per-pupil funding we have experienced over the last five years. A cardinal rule of school finance is not to pay recurring expenses, specifically teacher salaries, from one-time funds, specifically carryover funds. "We are always looking for ways to cut operating expenses and revisit this every year. Let me remind everyone that TPS lost over $22 million during the last budget crisis. We were aggressive in making budget cuts through initiatives like Project Schoolhouse -- an exercise we continue to perform on an annual basis -- and these cuts have already taken place through closed schools, administrative and teacher cuts, holds on the refilling of positions, etc. "While Oklahoma teachers are deserving of a $2,000 pay increase, we will have to appeal to our state legislators to find a way to make this possible. We need a better long-term solution."