Carbon District stimulus fund money largely for deficit fill in
The Carbon School District has received one of the largest stimulus packages in Carbon County. However, unlike most stimulus recipients, the district did not apply for the money. Instead, the district received it based primarily on student populations.
The money, (approximately $3,351,502.47) came through the Utah State Office of Education and was given to the district in the form of numerous grants. The funds must all be spent by 2011.
"Most of (the stimulus) was classified as stabilization funding, which came with no strings attached and was used to back fill some budget cuts we had last year," said Darin Lancaster, district accountant. "We lost a lot of funding last year."
Overall, the district was hit with around a 10 percent budget decrease for 2009 and 2010. The district used approximately $1,356,603 in federal stabilization funds in 2009, to fill in the holes. In 2010, $768,722 in federal stimulus will be used for the same purpose. However, the district hopes the state will pick up some of the funding slack for 2011, because stimulus money will not be available. The dictrict for 2009 had around a $30 million budget for 2009.
Currently, around 65 to 70 percent of the funding has been spent, with the remaining funds ($1.2 million) classified for more specific use and earmarked towards projects, programs and equipment for special needs and low income (Title 1) students.
As almost every school in the county, except the high school, is classified as Title 1, $319,833 was given for various purposes. The special needs funding was provided under the Integrated Disability Education and Awareness (IDEA) program and received a total of $845,984 in general and $47,883 for preschool. According to Lancaster, the district has always received funding for the IDEA Program. However, this represents an $800,000 increase. He also indicated that the district is encouraged to spend much of the money on long- term benefits.
"Things like improving the infrastructure at the Castle Valley Center have been identified; it doesn't have to be gone until 2011, so there is some time to decide, and it hasn't been spent," he said.
As for the Title 1 funding, a little less than 50 percent has been spent, according to Lancaster. Most of the money went toward teacher development.
"The superintendent is focusing a lot on math right now; we've spent money for training on math techniques. Teachers in (Title 1) situations also need training. We're probably not going to hire anyone, and provide the training to avoid a funding cliff once the money runs out," said Lancaster.
To date, the district has not hired anyone, because of its budget shortfalls, and has actually had to lay off staff. According to Lancaster, stimulus money has probably saved around 10 teaching positions. However, without the money, 10 employees would have likely lost their jobs due to other possible cuts. One school that had to lay off staff was Carbon High School, which has cut many assistant coaching positions, field trips, gone to 180 school days per year and currently has around 35 teachers, according to Principal Greg Stanfield.
"We did lose some staff last year and have had some teachers who had to fill in as well as some elective cuts, but we're trying not to cut any programs and I think the district is doing a good job in trying to keep programs in place," he said.
As for the elementary and junior high schools, few staff cuts have taken place. Most of the schools indicated that they have simply been dealing with smaller cuts, such as heating and electricity. However, Helper Jr. High Principal, Tom Montoya, said that because the school is already operating on a skeleton staff, no staff cuts are possible.
"We are classified as a necessary school and we are required to keep certain subjects open. To do that, we need a base staff of highly qualified teachers," he said.
Currently, Helper Jr. High has around 12.5 teachers. Some teach half-day shifts and the school also takes in students from outside of Helper City.
According to Montoya, the school has made cuts that include reduced athletic trips and field trips. Teachers now conduct workshops in-house, but most workshops have been frozen for the time being.
"We're all in a difficult situation; I don't want the public to think it hasn't affected us; it has, but the district has dealt with it well and been good about working with the principals," he said.
In terms of enrollment, the high school and junior high schools in the county have experienced a significant decrease during the past few years. Carbon High enrollment is down from 757 students three years ago to 620 students today. Helper Jr. High has enrolled around 180. However, the elementary student population is steadily increasing. Most schools in this category are nearly full, which has given other schools hope that things will turn around. The district, as a whole, has a total of around 3,462 students enrolled, with 1,779 of them considered Title 1.
"Enrollment is supposed to go up. The elementary schools are bursting at the seams, but, in terms of funding, it's all speculation.
We'll just have to see what the legislature does for funding," said Stanfield.