The annual budget for the San Juan School District will approach $40 million in the coming year.
On June 21, the school board approved a $35.6 million general fund budget, and a $3.6 million capital outlay budget.
In addition, the school district adopted the same property tax rate as 2015. With a modest increase in the assessed value of properties in San Juan County, the tax rate will generate about $66,000 more in revenue than in 2015.
District officials state that the surplus will be put into capital projects. After a significant drop in property values in 2015, the district collected $1.12 million less than the previous year.
In other budgetary matters, teacher contracts have been approved. The contract includes a one percent salary increase, steps and lanes for teachers for experience and education gains, and retained insurance coverage. An additional one percent salary increase may be forwarded in December.
Capital projects that are ongoing in the district include new carbon monoxide monitors at all schools in the district at an estimated cost of $200,000. A CO leak in October, 2014 triggered legislation that is resulting in new CO monitors across the state.
In addition, the district is completing five new teacher homes adjacent to Monument Valley High School. The project is valued at around $1 million.
Gymnasium and locker room renovations are taking place at San Juan High School in Blanding at a cost of $750,000.
Capital projects which were approved for the coming year include approximately $600,000 for new windows, exterior work, and office renovations at Montezuma Creek Elementary School.
The district has also set aside $2 million for a new gymnasium adjacent to the elementary school in Montezuma Creek. However, construction of the new gymnasium is dependent upon the district securing use of the land from the Navajo tribe.
Additional projects for the coming year include $1.5 million for new pipes, lockers, hallway work, office renovations and revamped classrooms at Whitehorse High School.
The district also set aside up to $600,000 to continue to investigate the possible construction of a new elementary school in Bluff. The funds will include a study of the current school site, which the district says has no more room for septic systems.
The current septic system at Bluff Elementary School is approximately 15 years old and had an estimated life of five years when it was installed. The district says that if the system fails, the school may need to be closed and the students bused to schools in adjacent communities.
In 2015, the district secured approximately 12 acres of land on the western edge of Bluff as a possible site for the new school.
However, there has been opposition to the new site from a variety of sources, including residents of Mexican Water who would prefer a school closer to their community, from concern about possible archaeological issues on the property, and from members of the Bluff community who would prefer to continue to use the existing school site.
As the project moves ahead, additional expenditures in Bluff may include site preparation and archaeology work. The school board seems interested in moving ahead for a long term solution to the school challenge in Bluff, including building community support.
The school district educates approximately 2,800 students in 12 schools stretching from Navajo Mountain to La Sal.
The school board approved two new coaching-level positions at Whitehorse High School for the native dance groups and the speech and debate team. In addition, the district made an adjustment to the salary range for school nurses as a result of a new federal rule.