Schools face deep budget cuts from the state |

Schools face deep budget cuts from the state

Patrick Parkinsonof the Record staff

The Park City School District could lose as much as $2.8 million next year leaving some district employees without jobs if state lawmakers cut 5 percent from the education budget.

"It’s a very substantial hit for us and it would make it really difficult," Park City School District Superintendent Ray Timothy said.

Personnel costs account for most of the school district’s budget, he said.

"We’re a very labor-intensive business," Timothy explained. "It’s both program cuts and personnel cuts when you start trying to cut to the bone and we’re at the point right now that we’re starting to look at positions, which is a very regretful thing to have to do."

State lawmakers have identified school programs they would like to see cut, which include less funding for busing, adult education and at-risk students.

"We would prefer that [lawmakers] let us look within our budget and determine where that 5 percent comes from," Timothy said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "Schools are asking for the flexibility to allow us to cut where we think is the least detrimental to our district."

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Lawmakers have proposed a 5 percent cut this year on top of significant cuts they made to public education in 2009, he said.

"To cut any further would really hamper what we’re trying to accomplish. It would be to the general funding for our district," Timothy said. "If they cut it that means we have lost the revenue every year for the future."

The Legislature is facing a roughly $700 million budget shortfall.

"I don’t think legislators are out there trying to destroy public education. They’re faced with a really difficult chore of trying to balance the state’s budget," Timothy said. "It’s difficult when the revenue just isn’t there."

In Kamas, South Summit School District Superintendent Barry Walker said a 5 percent cut "would be very, very difficult."

"It could be program cuts or it could be furloughs just depending on how we’re trying to work things out," Walker said in a telephone interview. "We may not have the same programs and the same personnel as we had before."

Walker said in his career he has not seen as drastic budget cuts as lawmakers have proposed this year.

"It’s the most serious that I have seen in my 30 years," Walker said. "It’s 5 percent on top of everything else that was cut last year and in previous years. Overall, you’re looking more at a 15 percent cut from what previous budgets have been."

A teacher who retired last year helped district officials avoid layoffs.

"With the budget cuts that are coming for the 2010-11 school year we’re hoping that maybe there will be some who are looking at retirement next year," Walker said.

But school officials in Kamas are waiting for updated revenue estimates from the state before they decide on cuts.

"When it comes to actual layoffs of personnel, we have not discussed those things yet," Walker said. "We’re willing to wait another couple of weeks and watch how things fold out in the Legislature and then we’ll begin our discussions in earnest on what we’re going to do."

Taxes in the South Summit School District are not expected to increase, he said.

"In the current economy, when everybody is struggling, we would prefer not to do a tax increase," Walker said.

However, officials in the North Summit School District have considered raising taxes to make up for the cuts.

"We could raise enough money just from our local school district taxpayers to offset that cut from the state," North Summit School District Superintendent Steve Carlsen said.

District officials could decide in March whether to put a voted leeway before voters in June, Carlsen said.

If the measure is approved, taxes on a $250,000 home in the North Summit School District could increase roughly $45 per year.

"We pretty much have cut as far as we can without really having a direct effect on education. This next year, with a 5 percent cut, it would be really, really tough," Carlsen said.

Without a tax increase, about 20 district employees could lose their jobs, he said.

"It would come down to a huge reduction in force," Carlsen said.

Meanwhile, to fund 11,000 new students who are expected to enter public schools next year some lawmakers suggest reducing per pupil spending in the state by lowering the weighted pupil unit.

"The Legislature is saying that they don’t want to be blamed for not funding growth. It’s just semantics," Timothy said. "They’re just going to fund growth by lowering the value of the weighted pupil unit. It’s more students but the same amount of money from previous years."

The weighted pupil unit equals roughly $2,565, he said.