Board of Education progresses toward an approved budget
The Park City Board of Education does not want any student deterred from taking a course because of the cost. For that reason, it voted earlier this month for the district to pay the mandatory and academic fees associated with certain classes.
That is one of the changes in the works as the Board finalizes its budget. The plan is to have the budget ready for a public hearing on May 15, said Todd Hauber, the business administrator for the Park City School District.
The Board originally planned to approve its budget by mid-April, two months earlier than the June deadline, to ensure it was finalized in time to hire the best candidates for new positions. Hauber said that, despite the delay, most of the positions have been approved by the Board and principals are in the process of hiring. The Board has also finalized its capital budget. The Board plans to increase taxes through the basic levy due to pay raises for employees that took place last year. Andrew Caplan, president of the Board, said that discussions about the exact amount of the levy increase will go on throughout the remainder of the month.
Caplan said that there are still ongoing discussions about topics such as whether to hire new student wellness positions and assistant principals at the elementary schools.
The Board had been discussing whether or not to assume the responsibility of academic and mandatory fees for weeks before ultimately voting to do so on April 3. Students have traditionally paid for the fees themselves.
The fees, which are attached to many classes at schools from Ecker Hill Middle School to Park City High School, cover the cost of books and equipment.
Caplan said that students are currently able to apply for fee waivers, but having them go through the process to attend classes was not “in the spirit of equity.”
“We’re a public school,” he said. “There shouldn’t be any hurdles to taking an AP class, such as the cost of books or the cost of a lab. It should be open and equal to all students.”
Hauber said that the total cost of the fees is expected to be between $600,000 and $700,000. The money will come from the operational budget, which is funded by property taxes. The fees for athletics and extra-curricular activities will still be paid by the students and their families, but Caplan said that he hopes to have conversations within the community in the next year to decide how to make those opportunities more available to students as well.
“We’re excited about it as a Board,” he said. “As this community has this conversation about social equity, which is being led by the city and the community foundation, we are trying to do our part as a district to participate in that and create equity within our schools.”
Caplan said that, moving forward, the fiscal aspects of classes will be taken into account as they look at which courses should be offered.
The Board also recently approved the capital budget, which includes capital improvements to the schools or funding for future projects. Caplan said that one of the main parts of the capital budget is the money that is being set aside for investments for increased safety, which Hauber said is about $1 million.
“We are updating buildings quite a bit this year and have put a pretty big line item again for next year in terms of safety,” Caplan said. “We are going to continue to invest in making our schools as safe as possible for the students.”
The total capital budget has been listed as $5,728,698. Some of the other big-ticket items on the list are the resurfacing of Dozier Field at Park City High School and updating the retaining wall at Parley’s Park Elementary School. Both projects are expected to cost around $500,000, Hauber said.
Hauber said that the district was waiting to replace the artificial turf on the high school’s field because it was unsure about future updates to the school that could require relocating the field. That scenario has been considered for years as the district plans an expansion of the high school but has consistently been met with pushback from the community. With projects at Treasure Mountain Junior High and the high school, the district takes the future of the schools into account.
“When we go in to take care of those maintenance, we’ll keep in mind that this building does have a different future, so we’ll try to put the appropriate improvements in or take care of whatever needs are there based on a shorter time frame,” Hauber said.
For example, when the district selects new carpet for Treasure Mountain, the material may not need as long of a lifespan.
“We’ll adjust appropriately so we don’t put more money into it than we need to,” he said.
About $3.5 million of the capital budget will go toward those capital improvements. Another $780,000 will go toward updating computers at the schools to ensure that every student has a computer. The district updates computers every four years, Hauber said.
Each building in the district then receives a chunk of money to be used by the principals at their discretion.
Caplan said that there is a possibility that the Board will also budget for future capital improvements, such as building a new facility or updating an existing one. If approved, there would be an increase to the tax levy, along with the tax bump because of salary increases.
To see the tentative budget, visit this website.
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“I think one of the things that really, really, really scares … us is knowing that there are go-to docs that they can send out saying a student or a teacher or a staff member died,” said union co-president Julie Hooker.