|Walt Borla, superintendent David Armstrong, Jim Leonard, Grady McEvoy and Sam Chiara sit in the board room at the school district's new offices before the public meeting last Wednesday. The session was the first meeting in the room and the last for outgoing board member Chiara.|
Last Wednesday, the Carbon County Board of Education decided to conduct a voted leeway election on Feb. 4, 2003.
But while the vote favoring the leeway election was unanimous, the decision was not reached without debate and comments by board members.
"This is going to be hard to sell to a lot of people in the county," stressed board member Walt Borla. "We have a predominance of senior citizens in the county that are on fixed incomes."
In the event the leeway proposal passes at the election polls, the exact details of what the extra money would be used for will not be available until early next month after the board of education meets at a work session to determine the particulars.
But it is known how much of a levy the school district officials intend to ask Carbon residents to endorse.
It appears the only choice voters would have is to approve or disapprove a .0011 mill levy. If approved it would bring the local property taxes from being in the lowest 10 county assessments in Utah to an above average level or thirteenth in the state from the top of the assessment ladder.
The proposed increase would raise a $100,000 home's property taxes by slightly more than $61 per year. The increase would raise a similar valued business to $110 more than what the taxes are now.
"At this point in time, there are a lot of people out of work and many have less money," stated board member Grady McEvoy. "In selling this we will have to define each point of why the money is needed and what it is going to be used for. We need to show specific impacts and what we believe it will do for the schools."
In November, the board of education discussed some of the more fine points of what might be proposed. The examples included hiring special reading teachers for the elementary schools, funding some building improvements and possibly giving raises to teachers.
However, the points discussed last month and other details will be ironed out at the education board's work meeting in January.
"We have some important problems that we need to address," stated Carbon Superintendent David Armstrong. "This next year, insurance in the district will be going up 14 percent and, with the $117 million shortfall the special session of the Legislature is meeting about later this month, it appears that another 3 percent could be cut from our state appropriations."
"Right now, Utah has the lowest amount of money allocated per student in the nation and has the second highest amount of students in school, second only to California," added Armstrong.
Following the comments from the superintendent, the panel approved a resolution to notify the county clerk's office of the board's intent to conduct a leeway election.
According to figures discussed during November's board meeting, it will cost the school district about $3,000 to fund the election.
In an unrelated action at last week's public meeting, the board of education voted to begin a new physical fitness program at Carbon High School. The program is currently being used in 71 other schools in the state.
The board members were introduced to the program by school district business manager William Jewkes, who said at first he had his doubts about the program when he first saw it.
"I wondered about it," he told the board concerning the money involved. "But when I had our legal counsel review it and checked out the program in some of the other school districts where it is being used, I realized it is a great program."
The program is being offered by the National School Fitness Foundation which receives money from various corporate entities. The foundation has offered the district a chance to set up a fitness lab at the high school which will have over $300,000 worth of equipment installed in it.
The equipment would be leased through a bank by the district, but the money for the lease would be reimbursed to the district each month.
The obligation for the program would be three years and at the end of that time, the district would own the equipment. The districts responsibility would be to offer the workout center to all students and staff at the high school, have some instructors trained to supervise the center and instruct those that use it in the processes involved and allow data kiosks to be installed that participants would register in each time they used the facility.
The audience and board members watched a 10 minute video which explained the program and how it works. It explained that if participants use the facility for 30 minutes a day, three times a week, they would show remarkable improvement in their body weight and physical fitness.
Carbon High principal, Robert Cox also threw his backing behind the program, one that would involve some real changes in the physical fitness program at the institution.
"We intend on using the present weight room for the equipment," stated Cox. "We will also make this a class students can take on campus three times a week. We also project that we will make it a mandatory class for sophomores at the school."
Cox also explained that the school would have the present coaching staff go through the program, but that the facility and it's use would in no way be limited to athletes, but would be available to all students, possibly even before and after school.
"Lehi High School has seen some tremendous gains in physical fitness among their student body because of this program," Cox told the board. "They say there seems to be a raise in academic performance because of it too."
The board had various questions, which were answered by Terry Willardson, a representative from the foundation. Most of the concerns were monetary.
Willardson told the board that the foundation was very solvent but of course there were "no guarantees."
Jewkes pointed out that the cost of the lease for the equipment would be between $5500 -$6000 a month.
"If for instance the foundations stops paying however, we can ask the bank to come and get the equipment," said Jewkes. "But I don't think it will be a problem because the money to pay it is escrowed."
Willardson also pointed out that the foundation will share the data it collects on progress of student physical fitness with the district.
"That is the overall data," he said. "Even the individual participants will be able to go on line and see what their progress is. However, all privacy laws and ordinances will be followed, so specific information about any one individual will be private."
The program, as approved, will start up sometime in mid January, once the rubberized floor is laid and the present weight equipment is moved to another room that is available.