School district seeks a balanced budget
The Park City School District’s first priority when outlining the budget for the 2012-2013 school year is to minimize the effect on student learning, said Park City School Board President Moe Hickey, at an education issues forum at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Tuesday.
Hickey said one of the questions they plan to ask after making more than $5 million worth of cuts, is if the school district should follow the Utah model, which he said is essentially "stack them deep and cheap," or continue spending the national average per student, which is twice the state average.
"At that point when we’ve made those cuts and our economic house is in order then we’ll address where we want to move forward," Hickey said. "This is a crucial time in Park City."
Raising local property taxes is another item on the board’s radar. Hickey addressed the topic at the forum by saying that the school district would first make the appropriate cuts to reach its budget goals before raising taxes.
"We can address this and make those cuts and then if we need to increase taxes, then we have a clean slate," he said. "The process is going exactly as we anticipated. Once we’ve identified our cuts and cleaned up our books, then we can have that discussion of ‘what do we value.’"
The school district has overcome losing close to $8 million in state money from 2008 until now, Hickey said, adding that the district has used local funds to help make up the difference. Now it’s time to replenish that.
"The state is not going to add funding to public schools on a significant level and they certainly aren’t going to restore that to Park City, so to sit here and think the state will it’s not going to happen," Hickey said. "We need to take care of those issues locally."
The school district will have to make about $5 million in budget reductions by next school year in order to get its funds where they need to be according to state standards. Park City School District Superintendent Ray Timothy has compiled a list of recommendations that will save the school district about $4.3 million. The school district administration and board members are scheduled to meet March 13, where Hickey said they will make sure they are making cuts where needed.
"I think this will be a good discussion. This community supports education and I think they see the value in education, but we need to put it in perspective," Hickey said, adding that until a final decision is made, he thinks all their options should be left on the table for consideration.
"We really want to make the impact of these cuts as minimal as possible on students," he said. "I think education is too parent-centered in this country, and I think one of the things we’re trying to do is ask, ‘what’s the effect on the students?’ If it doesn’t benefit the student, then it’s not a priority."
There are a number of new programs that have benefited students, according to Hickey, who said that the Early Childhood Program, modeled after Granite School District’s program, has shown a substantial increase in student performance over the last six months.
The school district is also looking into a Professional Development program for next year, according to Hickey, who said they have received positive feedback from the business community and there has been nothing but support for the initiative.
"We are moving forward on it, so now it’s a question of when to implement this. I think it’s going to be a game-changer in a lot of ways," he said, adding that they will be following the same business model as Overland Park, Kansas, where school district employees visited earlier this year to evaluate the program.
Students who participate in the Professional Development program will come to school for their morning classes and then spend the afternoon partnering with businesses, Hickey said, adding that the students will also be able to earn college credit for their work.
The school district’s goal is to be ahead of the budgeting schedule this year in order to avoid last-minute issues in June when the plan is due.
"We would like to have a budget draft ready in May so when we have to fine-tune things, we won’t be under pressure," he said.
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