Over the past two years, the school district has cut more than $2.7 million from the general operating fund. Cuts in the coming school year, totaling $1.2 million, include increasing by one the student teacher ratio in the schools, transitioning the principal position at Navajo Mountain High School to a head teacher position, cutting staff in the business office, eliminating a counseling position at San Juan High School, cutting librarians from 40 to 35 hours, using reserve funds to pay the outstanding obligations from an expired retirement system, and more.
The budget cuts helped the district pay for the increases in retirement, social security and retirement programs. In addition, employees will have step increases in the new budget.
In 2009-10, the district cut an additional $1.5 million from the operating budget.
In addition to the general expense of operating a dozen schools for roughly 3,000 students in the sprawling district, a new elementary school in Monument Valley will be completed in the coming fiscal year, with a total price tag of approximately $10 million.
The district also is spending roughly $2.5 million on a housing project at the new school and $2 million for a new heating and cooling system at Whitehorse High School in Montezuma Creek.
Funding for the new projects and renovations comes largely from a voted leeway that voters approved in 2006. The State of Utah matches the local input into the voted leeway fund.
At the time the voted leeway was approved, the school district paid off outstanding debt and agreed to set aside the entire voted leeway revenue for capital projects.
As a result, the new school and housing at Monument Valley and the heating and cooling system at Whitehorse High School are paid with cash, with no debt for taxpayers. Rebuilding Monticello Elementary is the next project that has been identified for the use of the voted leeway funds.
The approved budget does not include a $750,000 federal School Improvement Grant. The district recently received notification of the federal grant, which is for Bluff Elementary School. The grant, to be used over a three-year period, will provide funds for a number of projects, including an incentive program for teachers.
Stray dogs at Monument Valley High School were the topic of conversation in other matters at the June 21 meeting of the school board. Emily Price, an art teacher at the school, asked for permission to pursue a number of options to deal with an ongoing stray dog problem at the school. A dog pound may be placed at the school.
The school board approved a utility easement to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) that will be used to make water available to a five-acre lot adjacent to Monument Valley High School. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is purchasing the lot from the LaFont family and reportedly plans to build a church, seminary building and housing.
The board approved baseball and drill team activities at Monticello High School.