School District trims budget by $1.5 million

More than $1.5 million has been cut from the San Juan School district budget, and more cuts may be coming. A decrease in funding from the State of Utah triggered the cuts, which were made at the February 11 meeting of the San Juan School Board.

The Utah State legislature is currently in session and will pass a 2009-10 fiscal year budget before the session ends on March 12. Earlier in the session, the legislature approved a two percent cut in the current year budget, which translates to a $400,000 cut to the San Juan School District.

District officials state that the district will be able to absorb the current year cuts without adjusting the budget. The San Juan School District has approximately $6 million in reserves in the general fund budget.

However, any cuts in next year’s budget would require adjustments. Legislative officials estimate that the education general fund budgets could be cut 10 to 15 percent, which would translate to between $2 and $3 million for the San Juan School District.

If the legislature makes the 15 percent cuts, an additional $1.5 million may need to be cut from the General budget.

“This is just the possible general fund cuts,” said District Business Administrator Clayton Holt. “I am worried that other funds, including transportation, could also be cut.”

“Rather than wait until after the legislative season to make our cuts, we want to signal – as soon as possible – what we intend to do,” said Superintendent Douglas Wright.

The cuts extend across the massive district, which operates a dozen schools stretching from Navajo Mountain to La Sal. A list of approximately 35 potential cuts were distributed at the meeting. The board approved moving forward with more than a dozen of the cuts.

The cuts include:

• Reducing the faculty at Navajo Mountain High School by 2.5 full time employees. Enrollment at the remote school has decreased in recent years. The district will continue to provide educational opportunities for students at Navajo Mountain at the same level as other schools of similar size.

• Teachers will lose three paid teacher days from their contracts and administrators will be cut by five days.

• Full day kindergarten will be eliminated at Blanding Elementary School. In addition, funding for full day kindergarten at southern schools will be absorbed by federal Title I funding.

• Summer school programs will be eliminated, beginning this summer.

• District general fund contributions for special education programs will be cut because of similar funding in the federal stimulus package.

• Certified librarians in secondary schools will be replaced with classified employees. A library supervisor will oversee the libraries.

• A retiring secretary at Blanding Elementary will be replaced with a secretary currently working at San Juan High School. In addition, the secretarial position at the district media center will be eliminated.

• Student teacher ratios will be more rigidly enforced in the schools, eliminating a “rounding up” trend with school staffing.

• An administrative position in the district office will be eliminated.

• Costs will be reduced for travel and supplies throughout the district.

• Utility expenditures and summer grounds maintenance will be cut, as will a $15,000 annual payment to the City of Blanding for use of baseball fields.

Another board meeting is planned for February 19 to put a financial estimate on additional cuts.

A group of parents from the Monticello area approached the board with concerns about a policy at Monticello High School. Students face an automatic referral to juvenile court if they are involved in a fight at school. The parents state that the policy is not clearly outlined in the school policy manual, as is required by law. School officials told the parents that they would continue to look into their concerns.

At the current time, referrals are forwarded to the juvenile court system, which determines whether or not to proceed with court action. School officials state that the policy is identical to policies at San Juan High and Albert R Lyman Middle schools in Blanding.

The Monticello High School Community Council has addressed the issue for the past two months. While the policy will likely be more clearly stated in future policy manuals, the question remain about what to do with the prior incidents.

San Juan Record

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