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Maricopa County Judge Orders Immediate Increase In School Funding

A Maricopa County Judge ruled the Arizona legislature must pay public schools more than $300 million. The decision means a lot of budget adjusting for both sides.

The order by Judge Katherine Cooper also adjusts the base levels for the past five years. Base levels are the amount of money the state pays school districts per student.

The state was not adjusting the base level each year as law required. Instead, it applied the inflation rate to a constant base level.

Chuck Essigs of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials urged districts to hold off on accounting for this year’s money. 

“What schools would like to be able to do is to revise their budgets for this year to reflect the accurate calculation for inflation," Essigs said. 

Essigs said it’s too early to count on the money because the state will most likely appeal. There will be a hearing in October to decide if the schools will get back pay. State Representative Jon Kavanagh said if that happens, it will force the state to use money it doesn’t have. 

“So you are down to the point now the only way to take care of this is cutting from a state budget that is not fat and overweight but is somewhat lean," Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh said the $317 million the legislature is ordered to pay this year, will have to come from the states rainy day fund. 

Updated 8/21/2014 at 3:56 p.m.

Alexandra Olgin was a Senior Field Correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2016.