Guthrie to use economic development dollars to add teachers amid budget crisis

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GUTHRIE, Okla. - School starts in about four weeks in Guthrie and, like all Oklahoma school districts, Guthrie schools is planning to work with less funding this year.

Following a revenue failure at the state level, school districts across the state saw their budgets slashed.

While many districts are trying to make ends meet, the city of Guthrie has decided to take on some of that burden.

This year, Guthrie Public Schools faces a $1.5 million shortfall.

As a result, district administrators had planned to cut 24 teaching positions for the 2016-17 school year.

However, that was before city leaders got involved.

Last week, Guthrie City Manager Bruce Johnson and the city council voted in favor of funneling some additional funds to the school district, enough to pay the cost of three teacher positions.

Currently, the district reimburses the city $64,000 for two of the three school resource officers on school campuses.

Right now, the city pays for one position, which costs $32,000.

However, the city has now agreed to take on the cost of all three student resources officers at $96,000, saving the district $64,000.

Also, the city has agreed to reduce the district's annual $90,000 water sewer bill to zero.

In the end, the schools will have an additional $154,000 to keep three more teachers on staff.

Guthrie Superintendent Mike Simpson said the decision saved him from having to choose between safety and class size.

"Our motive was to make sure we had teachers in the classroom, especially at primary and secondary levels and to ensure we're getting high quality education," Johnson said.

More teachers means smaller class sizes and a better education for Guthrie students.

"Those kids are going to make higher wages and be less likely to be on social services or in contact with my police department in the future if they get a higher level of education today," Johnson said.

Johnson said the $154,000 is a small portion of the city budget, about 1 percent.

The money will come out of the economic development budget.

Guthrie Public Schools is the largest employer in Logan County.

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