School board faces budget challenges
The Emery County School Board met in their regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 13 at the district office building. Those present were board president, Laurel Johansen, board members, Royd Hatt, Sam Singleton, Marie Guymon and Rue Ware. Superintendant Kirk Sitterud and business manager, Ross Huntington were also present.
The first item was the approval of the warrants and the consent items. President Johansen then moved the meeting into the public hearing on the tax rates and budget for fiscal year 2003. Huntington gave a brief overview of the tax rates. He said at the June election the voters approved a voted leeway of .000800. Public entities are required to advertise any increases in the newspaper. Huntington noted that taxpayers will receive a tax decrease in what they pay to the school district.
Huntington said this is the tightest budget they have seen in some time. There will not be a cost of living increase for the teachers, but the district will be able to pay for the increase in the cost of health insurance. The district is in good financial condition. Superintendant Sitterud said it is a tight budget and there isn't much wiggle room. He also said the auditors will visit the district in three weeks, the school accounting systems are governed by the governmental accounting standards board which has strict standards.
Canyon View Junior High principal Larry Davis complimented the Superintendant and the business manager for the way they take care of the accounting. He said they haven't always agreed on how money should be spent, but that they were very knowledgeable.
Lane Justice, custodian from San Rafael Junior High said he was concerned that there wasn't a cost of living increase for the employees included in the budget.
Superintendant Sitterud explained that were are just holding even in the district. In the last five years we have lost 60 full time positions. This year we have a 6 percent increase in medical insurance costs. "Our district offers one of the best benefit packages in the state and we feel bad about no cost of living increase.
Huntington explained that the formula used for the budget doesn't allow for inflation and it is not worked into it. The board expressed the same sentiment about not being able to budget in a cost of living increase. The amount of the centrally assessed properties tax protests is down from $776,000 last year to $444,000 this year. The judgment levy will raise the funds to pay back those companies who filed tax appeals.
President Johansen said these are some tough times and the legislature cut back on education funding but the district is doing a phenomenal job in keeping their head above water.
Superintendant Sitterud said they estimate a loss of 40-60 students from enrollment last year, but they believe the declining enrollment to be leveling off. It was also pointed out that other districts have their employees pick up more of their own insurance costs. The budget was approved. The board then looked at the fee schedule, there are slight increases in some fees at Green River High School; but most fees have remained the same. Ware had a question on how these fees are set. It was explained that some are set at the district level by the school board and some are set at the individual schools. Once a fee is set it is not revisited unless there is a special request to do so.
The new band director at the high school, Ben Carroll was introduced to the meeting. He taught in Hurricane last year and is originally from Blanding. He said, "The students are in desperate need of new uniforms. Fabric costs continue to go up and the uniforms have raised $10,000 from the time we purchased them 12 years ago. Sharp uniforms help with school pride and support and they look good. I have a bid from BandShop who has been great to work with. Our old uniforms are 12 years old and are pretty thrashed."
Carroll also mentioned if you pay up from there is a 5 percent discount. He explained they are going to a two piece uniform with a hat. Superindendant Sitterud said the band program is being built back up again and they are increasing the number of band students he suggested the board seriously consider funding the uniforms.
Singleton said he had heard the band play in Elmo and they have increased their size from the beginning of the summer and sounded good. Guymon suggested they think about raising the uniform rental fee to assure the uniforms are returned when the student leaves band. The uniform fee includes a partial refund when the uniform is returned clean.
Superintendant Sitterud was next with his report. He said school is scheduled to begin on Aug. 20 with institute being held on Aug. 19. He mentioned when the legislature convened for the special session they cut $35,000 which came from the quality teaching block grant. One UPASS day was also eliminated. The new plan including the eliminated UPASS day had to be approved by the board again to be submitted to the state for approval.
He talked about the policy for association leave. He said there is one change in the policy that the teacher or the association must pay for the cost of a substitute when the teacher is absent for association business. The maximum is one day per month unless approved by the superintendant.
The allocation from the school trust land's fund was $52,866. The list of coaches was recommended and approved by the board, a couple of additions were noted: Creig Cox will act as assistant football coach at San Rafael and Tommy Hughes is the assistant baseball coach at Green River High School.
Superintendant Sitterud informed the board that Bob Wagner from the high school had undergone serious heart surgery and would not be starting the school year at this time.
"Jamie Huggard from BookCliff Elementary has submitted a letter of resignation, she will be moving to Heber City. Jody Carter will assume that full time position there and a position for a preschool special assistant will need to be filled. The AP testing results were very successful and we're pleased. In AP testing the national average is a 50 percent passing average. In Utah the passing rate is 67 percent and Utah also has the highest number of students who take the AP tests. In Emery County there were 75 tests taken by 36 students with a 70 percent pass rate," said Superintendant Sitterud.
Superindendant Sitterud said the board needs to designate one member of the board to attend the Utah School Boards Association meetings. It was decided that President Johansen will attend with Singleton as the alternate.
The next item was the approval of a letter of non-objection to the proposed annexation by Castle Dale City of the new public safety complex into Castle Dale City. The board noted that this item didn't make a difference to the school board in regards to taxes or other issues and remained neutral on the issue.
Superintendant Sitterud said there are some changes this year for transportation and some starting and ending times are different in some schools.
The school board adjourned into executive session. The next meeting of the school board will be on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. at San Rafael Junior High.