School District forms Budget Review committee
On Nov. 7, in a small school-board meeting room heated by more than 100 concerned citizens, acting school district president Tom VanGorder vowed to organize a budget committee, formed to shore up shrinking budget reserves. On Nov. 16, 45 members of a newly-formed committee showed up preparing to take action.
The Budget Review Committee, made up of teachers, administrators and community members, met in a special session in the same district office, the first of many meetings that will take place between now and the end of January.
The committee was chosen from parent-teacher organization members, community members, district employees and members of the education foundation, said VanGorder.
"Why are we here?" asked VanGorder. "This is a way to be proactive. The district is spending more money than it is bringing in."
The district’s "rainy-day" budget reserve has dwindled to $800,000, projected for this year. Ray Bartholomew, an independent auditor who reviewed the district budget warned that with the $35 million annual district budget, the "rainy-day" budget reserve should be over $5 million.
"Employee costs have gotten out of hand," said community-member Dick Weber. He is not sure he wants to participate in the budget-review process.
"I have concern where this school district is going," said community member Joe Ann Weber, Dick Weber’s wife. I think the horse is already out of the barn for this school year."
There have been underlying concerns held by some community members about the cause of the declining budget reserves, ranging from poor accounting on the part of the school board, to misappropriation of funds, despite the accounting of all monies by Bartholomew, presenting his findings at the school board meeting of Nov. 7.
"No doubt we’ll have people who think we don’t have the right numbers," said Patty Murphy, the chair of the Fiscal sub-committee. "We need to do a better job of getting this financial information out to the public."
The school budget under consideration is unrelated to the capital-improvement budget used, for example, to remodel and add on to Park City High School.
VanGorder sees it as essential to maintaining the high-standards that the district has already achieved.
"This is not a budget-cutting committee. If there are things we can do to trim the budget, we will," VanGorder said. "But we don’t want to dilute the excellent things we have that make our district stand out. There could be areas that actually need to be increased."
At the meeting, the future committee-members handed in lists of their top three choices of committees on which they would like to participate.
Greg Balch, a community member, who has a daughter attending McPolin Elementary School, hopes to either be on the retirement incentive committee, or on the committee that deals with class sizes. "Retirement incentive is of real interest to me," he said. "Every year it becomes a bigger piece of the budget."
The 45 members will join one of seven sub-committees, each representing different aspects of the school budget. Sub-committees will be chaired by a district specialist in that field.
The seven sub-committees are: Human Resources, Curriculum, Student Services, Support Services, Fiscal, Community Education and Other.
All aspects of the budget are open to discussion.
Each sub-committee will meet from three to eight times between the end of Nov. and the end of January.
"The sub-committees will do the "dirty work, then meet back here," VanGorder said.
On Jan. 31, the budget review committee will reconvene with recommendations and proposals, VanGorder said. The board will then make a presentation on its findings on Feb. 6.
"I hope we can gather the troops and pull it off," VanGorder said. "We’ll be very busy."
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