School district expects deep cuts |

School district expects deep cuts

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Few programs are safe as Park City School District officials mull ways to trim their budget by about $4.8 million in the next two years.

Cost-saving measures could include lessening the number of school days, reducing benefits packages for district employees or requiring them to pay for their health insurance.

"Everything is on the table," Park City School District Superintendent Ray Timothy said. "We may see cuts in the amount of hours that they work or maybe in the benefits they receive."

The Park City Board of Education expects to meet May 20 at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Park City High School to discuss budget cuts.

"We’re going to go through a whole list of items that could be potentially cut. We want the community to see what depths we are talking about and we want them to weigh in on what they think," Timothy said. "We need to cut and we need their input on their feeling toward prioritizing these budget cuts."

Without cutting the budget the district could face a deficit.

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"I’ve had one or two people say, go ahead and raise taxes," said Lisa Kirchenheiter, a member of the Park City Board of Education. "The board is reluctant to do that although, that too is on the table."

School officials in Park City had hoped they’d be held harmless by this year’s legislative session as state lawmakers scrambled to plug budget gaps in a recession.

That has not been the case.

"In trying to hold us harmless in the 2010 year, they did a lot of backfill so that we wouldn’t fall off the cliff and have massive cuts all in one year," Timothy said about one-time funding from the Legislature.

School officials are now being told to expect their state funding to decrease an additional million dollars next year, Timothy said.

"With everything on the table, one that will be more difficult to consider is cutting instructional base," he said. "There would be high cost savings there, but it’s at the expense of the education of our children. To furlough and cut instructional base, I think you will see be one of the last things we will consider doing."

Meanwhile, district workers may not support other considerations.

"Any cuts to their benefits package would be very difficult," Timothy said.

Larger class sizes with more students assigned to each teacher could help reduce costs, Kirchenheiter said.

"We have allowed the class size to creep down and that’s a huge expense," she said.

But personnel costs make up the largest share of what must be cut. Timothy said.

"Our money goes into people who are teaching kids, who are transporting kids, who are assisting the teachers in teaching the kids," he said. "You’re impacting people’s lives and it causes a lot of personal anguish to have to go through this process."

Clickers in the crowd at tonight’s town hall meeting may allow board members to poll the audience as ideas get floated.

"This is an opportunity to do things better and different," Kirchenheiter said. "It’s not all doom and gloom. We hope to be delivering the service better as well as using our taxpayers’ money more carefully."

Timothy said he hasn’t made any recommendations about the budget cuts.

A budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins in July, must be approved June 16, he said.