School District Requests County Pilt Revenues
The Carbon School District approached the county commission on Aug. 6 with the request for payment in lieu of tax revenues.
But due to the county's tight 2003 budget, the commissioners did not endorse allocating more PILT money to the school district.
"Last year when I approached you about more funds, we had some left and you urged us to spend it, so we did," pointed out school superintendent David Armstrong at the commission meeting. "This year, we would like to have some money to cover more things for more kids."
Armstrong explained the money is needed because of Carbon's falling enrollment and cuts in federal funding.
"As we lose students, we lose funding from the state, which in turn affects federal funding," he said. "It's a vicious cycle."
Armstrong and interagency health representative April Durrant asked the commission to allocate the PILT money for a number of different projects related to the schools.
"A number of programs were started several years ago with PILT money and we would like to continue those," said Armstrong, referring to the PILT revenues the county receives from the federal government.
The money is paid to the local governing body because of the federal government's vast ownership of land in the county. Federal public lands are not placed on the tax rolls.
The proposal from the school district asked the county commission to approve a total allocation of $64,500 in PILT money.
The school district representatives indicated that the requested revenues would be used to fund the following:
Providing after school child care for local youngsters.
The after school child care program has been abandoned in terms of funding from federal agencies.
Covering the costs associated with planning field trips for students.
Developing a junior engineering program.
Hiring computer lab aides at Carbon High.
Providing travel money for Sterling Scholar and science fair winners.
Booking a Lewis and Clark rendezvous experience for students attending the Lighthouse program.
Subsidizing a museum dinosaur project the district is planning.
Many Carbon County residents think the school district is flush with money because of the leeway vote that passed last February, explained Armstrong. But that is not the case.
The leeway brought the school district's tax base up from one of the lowest in the state to a higher than average ranking, according to the superintendent.
There have been several cuts in federal programs with the district losing about 100 students per year. Dropping enrollment has cost the district about $215,000. And the reduction in the weighted pupil unit due to more students attending Pinnacle Canyon Academy has cost the district $537,500, according to Armstrong.
In addition, the school district also lost money to special education. In fact, the district is having to pay money back on special education funding because of various cuts, according to the superintendent.
"The leeway increase does not cover any of these losses," stated Armstrong. "That money went to keep teachers we have and to increase our salary base so we can get good teachers to come to Carbon School District. Before the increase, we had the second lowest pay scale in the state for starting teachers."
The leeway money does not cover staff development, the music and art program at the elementary schools or library books, added the superintendent.
The main emphasis of Armstrong's presentation focused on providing the after school programs.
In a recent board of education meeting, parents approached the members to voice concerns that the after school programs were ending.
Many young students live in households where both parents work. Some residents are single parents and have no way to care for children after school.
"We are asking for $25,000, just for seed money to get a program up and running again," said Durrant. "That would help pay for initial start-up costs while we were collecting the tuition from parents whose kids participate."
The program would operate like it has in the past. Elementary schools would run the program from 3 to 6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Friday.
"Ideally, we would like it to run through 6 p.m. on Fridays, too, because many parents can't come to get their kids by 3 p.m.," noted Durrant.
The school district donates "in kind" to the after school program by providing the facilities and giving the students snacks to pacify the youngsters until they get home for dinner, explained the superintendent.
The Carbon County commissioners sympathized with the problems faced by the school district. But the lawmakers pointed to the county's present inability to do much to help.
"Everyone seems to have financial woes now," said Commissioner Bill Krompel. "Just two years ago we had a nice surplus in our budgets, but that isn't the way it is now. Our first responsibility is to support our county departments and with the budget so tight, PILT money will be important to us. We hope the budget looks brighter down the road but right now we can make no commitments to the school district."
The discussion continued with Durrant expressing her concern about what might happen to kids that are left home alone.
"There are a lot of parents panicking right now about what they are going to do in two weeks," she said.
Some in the group wondered what it would cost parents if they had to pay the entire tuition so the program could get up and running again.
"The fact is that the parents do pay for most of the program, but we need that seed money to get it started again," stated Durrant.
Dave Maggio from East Carbon was in the audience and noted the problems that many families in his area have.
"Eighty percent of the kids in East Carbon can't buy lunch, so tuition would be out of the question," he stated. "Down scaling everywhere is the cause. If we can help in any way we need to stand up to the plate. A small group of parents can pay, but many can't."
Commission Chair Steve Burge said the county wants to be helpful, but at this point little can be done.
"Actually we just got a PILT check today," he told the assembled group. "I believe as a community we need to do something, however. Let me ask you this. What would it cost to fund this program from the start of school to December?"
The county commissioners asked Durrant and Armstrong to consider the questions and to come back with the numbers to see if something could be done.
"You know I am for helping people all we can, no matter the group," said Krompel at the end of the discussion. "I look at things like the golf course which we supplement to the tune of $100,000 per year and no one who plays there pays the full cost of them actually playing a round of golf. A subsidy is a subsidy."