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Front Page » June 25, 2009 » Carbon County News » Carbon School District sets budget for 2009-10
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Carbon School District sets budget for 2009-10

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The Carbon School District has set its budget for the 2009-10 school year and it isn't pretty. But then as administrators explained to board members at the June 17 meeting, it could be worse too.

"Our revenues come from various sources with the state being the biggest contributor," said Darin Lancaster, the district's business manager. "This year the WPU (weighted pupil unit that the state uses to give money to school districts) will be worth $2,577 per student, or the same it was during the 2009 school year. However the state is projecting that we will lose student enrollment next year, so they are initially giving us less."

Lancaster said that the district actually doesn't expect a decrease in student numbers and when the count is taken soon after school starts, he thinks that count will reflect that.

But that doesn't mean all is well either. The state decreased funding in a number of areas, and since most of that funding is used for salaries in one way or another, the biggest expense the district has, the effects will be felt.

"Last year about half way through the year the state took back $395,068 because of the sagging economy. If that had been taken at the first of the year we probably could have stood that better. But since they take it away half way through the year, it is like a double hit because we have to make it up even though we have spent half those funds."

Those funds were made up by almost eliminating travel budgets, not replacing people who left and cutting some general expenses.

This year's total budget for the district is listed as $30,482,555. That may not sound bad for a small school district but it is $1,993,553 less than the district had to work with during the last school year.

The basic school program is driven by the WPU funding. The budget shows that in the regular basic school program the district will be over $152,000 short of last year's budget. For the restricted basic school program (special education, career and technology, class size reduction funds) the district will be short $55,950. That totals a loss of over $208,000 just in those areas. That loss is being made up in several ways including not hiring people to fill open spots in the teaching ranks as well as in administration and classified personnel.

The district also has funds that support the basic school program that come from other revenue sources including property taxes. In that fund category the district will be short an estimated $1,735,810.

It could have been much worse except that the legislature allowed a backfill of over $1.3 million from one time federal funds to help in this area. Otherwise the loss from last year could have more than $3 million.

"Sometimes people see that we are short on money in one area and wonder why we can't take if from another," Lancaster said in a Monday morning interview.

"For instance this summer we are redoing some of our parking lots that needed to be replaced. Some might ask why we are doing that when we don't have enough money to fill teaching positions.

But the problem comes from the kinds of funds used to perform certain functions. The law often prevents us from using funds denoted for a certain area such as maintenance or furniture acquisition for salaries or supplies."

Some of the areas that have been the hardest hit, with some of them completely eliminated include the quality teaching block grant, reading achievement funds, adult education and transportation.

One time funds have also been hit hard in next year's budget, with a loss of $24,138. Eliminated will be the family literacy center and one time signing bonus' for educators which has been used to lure teachers to teach in rural areas.

Due to the loss of funds, class size will rise slightly this year, but will still be under what the state average was last year.

"Most of the other districts in the state are going to have to raise their class size this coming year to stay within their budgets so that average number will go up," stated Lancaster.

As compared with many other districts in the state Carbon was not hit as hard as it could have been. Some of the large districts such as Davis, Granite, Jordan (now divided into two districts), and Alpine are going to feel the hurt much more.

"The problem with tax collections is that there is a lag time," stated Lancaster. "Even if the recession turns around fairly quickly, it may not be such a good year next year. But if it doesn't turn around, we don't know what the next few years will bring."

The legislature will have to deal with that in their 2010 session that starts in January and school district officials all over the state are holding their breath as to what will happen then.

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June 25, 2009
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