ST. GEORGE – The Board of Education for the Washington County School District approved the budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 and awarded a bid for site preparation at its regular meeting Tuesday at the school district offices, 121 West Tabernacle Street in St. George.
The budget covers all government funds, which include maintenance and operation, debt services, capital projects; along with three special revenue funds: Non-K-12 programs, food services and student activity.
The total of budgeted expenditures for 2015-2016 is $282.4 million, compared to the 2014-2015 total of $276 million.
No members of the public spoke during the public comment period of the board meeting.
The most significant change for the new budget is restoring the fund balance to healthier levels, according to the published budget.
In the maintenance and operations fund, increases in salary costs are due to adjustments for step and lane changes, as well as additional positions needed to address student enrollment growth.
Steps are increases in salary based on years of service, while lanes are salary categories based on level of education, the nature of a position and the associated responsibilities, district budget analyst Aaron Brickey said.
Complete information about school district positions and salaries can be found on the Washington County School District Salary and Payroll Web page.
Funding steps are negotiated with the American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, and the Washington Education Association, an affiliate of the Utah Education Association.
Ideally, the district would be able to provide incremental cost of living increases every year. However, this has not always been the case, Brickey said.
In 2012-2013, there were no cost-of-living adjustments made to the salary schedule; in 2013-2014 there was a .25 percent increase over the previous year.
For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the increase was 1.25 percent, and this year it will be a 3 percent increase.
One way the district addressed the dramatic funding decreases brought about by the recession, Brickey said, was by redoing the salary schedules and cutting the annual increases in half.
This went into effect in 2011-12, and has remained in effect since that time. For example, a teacher who started working on step 1, lane 1 in the 2009-10 year would now be on Step 7, Lane 1. If there had been no adjustments to the salary schedule over the last seven years, that teacher’s salary in 2015-16 would have been $36,906, Brickey said.
However, due to the half-step that teacher’s actual salary this year will be $34,802, based on the 2015-16 salary schedule which includes the 3 percent cost of living increase in effect for the fiscal year.
The district budget states that staffing levels are remaining level over last year despite increases in student enrollment, due to lower than expected student enrollment in the 2014-15 school year.
The district has projected a 7.7 percent growth in students over the next four years, so staffing increases are expected in order to accommodate those additional students. Total student enrollment is currently at 27,118, and is projected to grow to 29,219 by 2019.
The budget can be viewed here: Washington County School District Adopted Budget FY 2015-16
The school board awarded a bid to Interstate Rock for $847,022 for site preparation work on the planned Washington Fields Elementary School.
The new elementary school, to be built at approximately 2700 South Washington Fields Road, will be needed for either the 2016-2017 or 2017-2018 school year, Bills said, depending on enrollment numbers.
The site work will take approximately two months, and doing the work now makes it easier to complete the school in time for the next school year, if needed.
“It gives us more lead time,” Bills said.
An intermediate school and high school are also planned for the Washington Fields area, and all three schools will be paid for by bonds authorized by voters in 2013, when a $185 million bond for school construction was passed in a special bond election.
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