Park City schools highlight student wellness efforts in annual budget | ParkRecord.com

Park City schools highlight student wellness efforts in annual budget

Expenditures rise, but residents will see no tax increase

The Park City School District is set to spend nearly $10 million more in the 2017-2018 school year than it did in 2016-2017, but residents won't see a tax increase.

The Board of Education last week unanimously approved the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018, which includes about $84.5 million in expenditures, up from just under $75 million in fiscal year 2017. According to district documents, the bulk of the increase comes from salary raises negotiated this spring by teachers, administrators and classified employees, as well as the hiring of new teachers to keep class sizes stable.

However, the district is also funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to improving student mental wellness and its special education program. For instance, the budget includes money for two new school psychologists, a behavior specialist, two social work counselors, two special education specialists, four academic interventionists and an associate superintendent of student wellness.

Petra Butler, a member of the Board of Education, said everyone in the district views increasing the resources spent on the mental wellbeing of students as a top priority.

"We've seen issues with drugs, but we're also seeing a heightened increase with anxiety and depression and a lot of other mental health-related issues in our schools," she said. "We want all of our students to be successful, and in order for them to be successful, they have to be in an environment where they feel like they can learn."

The large spending surge comes amid a rise in revenues — but not one large enough to cover the increase, as the preliminary budget anticipates about $74 million in total revenue. Todd Hauber, the district's business administrator, said reserves — which the district has maintained above recommended levels — will cover a roughly $6 million gap in the general fund and the rest of the deficiency will be made up through accounting methods within the budget.

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Even so, Hauber said the district's finances remain in strong shape.

"My view of the budget is that it's a healthy budget," he said. "We're in a fiscally sound situation, especially recognizing that we have excess reserves that we're able to deploy into the school district for our students. The operating year for 2018 will be balanced because of that."

He added that the district is expecting to reap more revenue in coming years from both the state and growth in property taxes. However, a tax increase may be necessary at some point to maintain the budget long-term as the district's reserves are shrunk down to the recommended level. Currently, the owner of a $650,000 home would pay less in school-related taxes — about $1,400 — than at any time since 2008, according to district documents.

"We're good for a year or two, then we'll have to look at that increase unless the state puts in a huge amount of money into the weighted pupil unit," he said. "And if we have significant growth, that will naturally help the budgets of the future."