School district financial risk analysis

Measures

Change in weighted student count

68 of 207 districts are at high risk for Change in weighted student count

This measure shows a district's change in group A weighted student count (WSC) over a 1- and 4-year period. Districts receive most of their State and local tax revenues based on their weighted student count and a per student State equalization funding formula. A single-year substantial decrease in WSC, or smaller but repeated decreases over more years, may expose a district to higher financial risk due to the loss of student-count-generated revenue. Revenue losses without similar levels of spending reductions will decrease available reserves. Districts with low or no reserves must react quickly to revenue losses to avoid overspending legal budget limits and available resources. In fiscal year (FY) 2021, many Arizona school districts experienced unprecedented decreases in WSCs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial risk of those decreases may not have been as significant as similar decreases in other years due to available federal relief monies. Over half of Arizona districts' FY 2024 weighted student counts remain below their FY 2020 levels, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and federal relief monies that districts may have used to offset student count decreases will no longer be available for spending after September 2024.

The Arizona school district funding formula increases all districts' student counts with a group A weight and increases specific student counts for special needs with group B weights.

  • Group A weights provide funding for common student needs across all districts and are determined based on the total number of K-8 and 9-12 students, respectively. As shown in the table below, group A weights are higher for smaller districts to adjust for their need to spread costs over fewer students, are higher for preschool students with disabilities, and are higher for 9-12 students compared to K-8 students
    District size Weights per student count*
    K-8 9-12
    1–99 student count 1.399 1.559
    100–499 student count 1.278 to 1.398 1.398 to 1.558
    500–599 student count 1.158 to 1.278 1.268 to 1.398
    600 or more student count 1.158 1.268
    Preschool students with disabilities 1.450

    *There are slightly higher weights for small, isolated districts as defined in Arizona Revised Statutes §15-901(B)(28).

  • Group B weights, including a weight for gifted students, provide funding primarily for individual students with specialized educational needs . Group B weights range from 0.007 to 7.947 and are intended to increase district funding to meet the additional needs of the identified students in each specialized educational need category.

Our analysis looks at each district's change in group A WSC as it is used in the largest portions of student-count-generated formula funding from State and local taxes. For fiscal year 2024, districts are receiving approximately $5,673 per group A weighted student count through base support and classroom site funding, an increase of $190 from fiscal year 2023.

Decreases in WSC will have varying effects on a district's financial risk, depending on the size of the district and the length of time over which the decreases occur. To account for this, as shown in the table below, we used multiple percentage thresholds, based on district size, to determine risk related to WSC declines and used different percentage declines for a 4-year change than we used for a 1-year change. Some small and very small districts increase their local property taxes with a small school adjustment . Generally, the ability to levy a small school adjustment reduces risk related to WSC declines; however, districts that qualify for State equalization assistance and are not able to increase their small school adjustment due to a frozen tax rate will lose funding when WSC declines. Therefore, most districts eligible for a small school adjustment are not considered high risk, even when experiencing WSC declines.

District size FY 2023 students attending* Group A WSC decline considered high risk
1-year decline 4-year decline
Large and very large 6,000 or more 2.5% or more 5% or more
Medium-small, medium and medium-large 500–5,999 5% or more 7.5% or more
Small and very small 0-499 7.5% or more 10% or more

* FY 2023 students attending, used to classify districts into size categories, are determined using our Office's analysis of Arizona Department of Education (ADE)-provided, school-district-reported attending average daily membership (ADM) counts. That analysis includes students from 1 Arizona school district attending another district under a tuition agreement in the district where they attend.

The applicable WSCs from the most recent 5 years were used to calculate the 1- and 4-year change.

Report date Number of districts at high risk
December 2020 104 of 207
December 2021 81 of 207
December 2022 56 of 207
December 2023 68 of 207

FY 2020 and FY 2021 WSC was obtained from the Arizona Department of Education's APOR 55-1 report for each district and fiscal year. FY 2022 through FY 2024 WSC was obtained from ADE's BSA 55-1 report. Current year group A WSC is the count as of November 27, 2023, used to calculate districts' November payments for the current fiscal year. Final current year WSC information will not be available until after the end of the fiscal year.

Frozen tax rate data was obtained from the Property Tax Oversight Commission's report, 2022 Review of School Districts that Exceed the 1 Percent State Constitutional Limit.

Districts at high risk for this measure

School district County Legislative district 1-year change 4-year change
School district County Legislative districts
Alhambra Elementary School District Maricopa County 24 and 26 -2.3% -16.7%
Altar Valley Elementary School District Pima County 16, 21, and 23 -5.8% -8.4%
Amphitheater Unified School District Pima County 17, 18, and 20 -2.0% -11.6%
Apache Junction Unified School District Pinal County 7, 10, and 15 -9.2% -16.9%
Balsz Elementary School District Maricopa County 8 -4.5% -10.2%
Blue Ridge Unified School District Navajo County 6 and 7 -1.0% -11.2%
Bonita Elementary School District Graham County 19 -18.8% -19.9%
Bowie Unified School District Cochise County 19 -12.1% 3.9%
Bullhead City Elementary School District Mohave County 30 -6.1% -17.5%
Cartwright Elementary School District Maricopa County 24 and 26 -5.2% -15.6%
Cave Creek Unified School District Maricopa County 3 -5.3% -21.8%
Chandler Unified School District Maricopa County 12, 13, 14, and 15 -2.4% -7.9%
Chinle Unified School District Apache County 6 -4.2% -9.1%
Colorado City Unified School District Mohave County 30 -6.5% -1.6%
Concho Elementary School District Apache County 6 -12.1% -5.7%
Cottonwood-Oak Creek Elementary School District Yavapai County 1 -1.7% -12.0%
Creighton Elementary School District Maricopa County 4, 5, and 8 -4.7% -15.5%
Douglas Unified School District Cochise County 19 -2.7% -9.2%
Eloy Elementary School District Pinal County 16 -5.6% -8.9%
Flagstaff Unified School District Coconino County 1, 6, and 7 -2.2% -6.7%
Florence Unified School District Pinal County 7, 15, 16, and 17 -1.3% -6.2%
Fountain Hills Unified School District Maricopa County 3 -21.4% -32.1%
Fowler Elementary School District Maricopa County 22 -5.8% -15.3%
Ganado Unified School District Apache County 6 -5.6% -19.4%
Gilbert Unified School District Maricopa County 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, and 15 -2.2% -6.7%
Glendale Elementary School District Maricopa County 24 -6.9% -25.0%
Grand Canyon Unified School District Coconino County 6 -2.9% -13.1%
Isaac Elementary School District
1 of 4 highest-risk districts
Maricopa County 26 -4.8% -20.8%
J. O. Combs Unified School District Pinal County 15 -7.2% -12.0%
Kyrene Elementary School District Maricopa County 9, 11, and 12 -3.9% -17.1%
Lake Havasu Unified School District Mohave County 30 -5.3% -6.0%
Litchfield Elementary School District Maricopa County 22, 25, and 29 -1.3% -9.0%
Mammoth-San Manuel Unified School District Pinal County 7 0.3% -12.7%
McNeal Elementary School District Cochise County 19 -11.9% -29.7%
Mesa Unified School District Maricopa County 3, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 15 -3.0% -10.3%
Murphy Elementary School District Maricopa County 11 -7.7% -24.2%
Osborn Elementary School District Maricopa County 5 -4.2% -17.5%
Page Unified School District Coconino County 6 -2.3% -7.9%
Palominas Elementary School District Cochise County 19 and 21 -7.7% -11.8%
Paradise Valley Unified School District Maricopa County 2, 3, 4, and 5 -2.7% -12.1%
Pendergast Elementary School District Maricopa County 22 -0.2% -9.7%
Peoria Unified School District Maricopa County 24, 27, 28 and 29 -2.4% -5.4%
Phoenix Elementary School District Maricopa County 5, 11, and 26 -3.9% -18.7%
Phoenix Union High School District Maricopa County 4, 5, 8, 11, 22, 24, and 26 -2.7% -1.7%
Picacho Elementary School District Pinal County 16 -13.1% -28.2%
Ray Unified School District Pinal County 6 and 7 -4.7% -12.5%
Riverside Elementary School District Maricopa County 22 -3.8% -7.5%
Roosevelt Elementary School District Maricopa County 11 -0.8% -14.5%
Sacaton Elementary School District Pinal County 16 6.9% -17.1%
San Simon Unified School District Cochise County 19 -2.8% -20.6%
Sanders Unified School District Apache County 6 1.4% -7.6%
Santa Cruz Elementary School District
1 of 4 highest-risk districts
Santa Cruz County 21 -3.8% -11.2%
Scottsdale Unified School District Maricopa County 3, 4, and 8 -1.5% -8.2%
Sedona-Oak Creek Joint Unified School District Yavapai County 1 and 7 -4.6% -9.3%
Sierra Vista Unified School District Cochise County 19 -2.4% -14.3%
Stanfield Elementary School District Pinal County 16 and 23 -5.3% -14.3%
Sunnyside Unified School District Pima County 20, 21, and 23 -2.2% -9.2%
Superior Unified School District Pinal County 7 -11.5% -10.8%
Tempe Elementary School District Maricopa County 8, 9, 11, and 12 -3.8% -13.3%
Tempe Union High School District Maricopa County 8, 9, 11, and 12 -4.6% -10.3%
Tolleson Elementary School District Maricopa County 22 -1.0% -8.6%
Tonto Basin Elementary School District
1 of 4 highest-risk districts
Gila County 7 -14.0% 3.0%
Tucson Unified School District Pima County 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, and 23 -2.3% -10.0%
Union Elementary School District Maricopa County 16 and 22 -0.5% -10.9%
Valley Union High School District Cochise County 19 9.8% -12.3%
Washington Elementary School District Maricopa County 2, 5, 24, 26, and 27 -2.9% -16.3%
Wilson Elementary School District Maricopa County 11 -7.9% -17.2%
Window Rock Unified School District Apache County 6 -0.2% -9.7%