School board debates budget goals, process; postpones superintendent evaluation | CraigDailyPress.com

School board debates budget goals, process; postpones superintendent evaluation

Sunset Elementary School Principal Jill Hafey follows up presentations by Sunset students Alexis Jones and Megan Neton to the school board Monday night. Jones shared her project about planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta

— The budget and how to proceed with the superintendent evaluation dominated the discussion at the Moffat County School District Board of Education work session Thursday afternoon at the administration building.

Board Treasurer Darryl Steele stated he would like for the board to begin work on the 2016-17 budget soon, initiating a conversation about the board's budget process and priorities. Steele stated his main goal was create a balanced budget, a priority that seems to be taking center stage for the board as a whole.

Board members debated whether to achieve that goal by making cuts or seeking additional revenue, such as a mill levy override or grant funding.

"My vote is to present a balanced budget without a mill levy," Steele said.

However, board member Jo Ann Baxter argued in favor of exploring the idea of putting a mill levy override on the ballot for 2016.

"I'm not convinced we can do that and still achieve our goal," Baxter responded to Steele, referring at least in part to the board's stated goal of maximizing student achievement. "I think we have the responsibility to go out there and at least ask and do the work that informs (the public) and educates them."

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Baxter cited the example of a successful 2005 campaign to pass a bond to build Craig Middle School despite a survey that showed the bond lacked community support.

Board President Darrell Camilletti has consistently opposed a mill levy override, and expressed doubt as to whether more money will solve the matters of improving student achievement or closing the budget deficit.

"I don't think we can support a mill levy override, I think it would go down in flames," Camilletti said. "We haven't done our due diligence."

In regards to making budget cuts, Baxter questioned whether class sizes would increase, while Steele recommended examining administrative positions to determine if any positions added in the past decade could be cut for budget savings.

Baxter suggested increased revenue could come in the form of grants, however, board secretary Charity Neal called grant income unsustainable and considered it only a short-term or goal-specific fix.

Steele suggested the board task Superintendent Brent Curtice with drafting a balanced budget for review by the board, however, Curtice and MCSD Finance Director Tinneal Gerber expressed their desire for more direction and clearer goals from the board.

Board Vice President JoBeth Tupa reminded the board and administrators that Policy DBD, approved in May, clearly defines a process for setting budget priorities by soliciting input from school-level Parent Accountability Committees and the District Accountability Committee.

"The Board must know how resources are currently allocated, whether such allocation is effective and what changes should be made to achieve the greatest educational returns," the policy states. "The superintendent shall develop a comprehensive and ongoing system to collect and analyze resource allocation information. The analysis of this information shall form the basis for the budget prepared by the superintendent for presentation to the Board."

Board member Tony Peroulis called for positivity as the board weighed whether to consider a mill levy and suggested the board hold dedicated, public budget meetings once per month.

"The community has to decide what it wants for its school system," Peroulis said. "We have to be optimistic instead of pessimistic."

The board also agreed during its work session to complete Curtice's superintendent evaluation through a series of individual meetings between board members and Curtice, with Camilletti present as board president, instead of completing it publicly as planned at Monday's work session.

Outgoing attorney to the district Tom Thornberry confirmed that Curtice's contract allowed for both individual and collective meetings.

The board also discussed Curtice's three-year contract, which was extended through June 30, 2018 through the board's affirmative actions last December. If the board takes no action before Feb. 1, Curtice's contract will automatically extend an additional year through June, 2019.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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