School board removes iPads, other items from 2015-16 budget
Craig — Whether to approve funding in next year’s budget for iPads and one-to-one technology became a major topic of discussion at Thursday’s Moffat County School District Board of Education work session and public hearing.
Board member Darrell Camilletti raised concerns once again that the district was spending beyond its means and adding new expenses when the projected deficit in the proposed 2015-16 budget was well over $1 million.
The deficit amount will be drawn from the district’s reserves, reducing the reserve to 29 percent of the district’s expenses. School district policy states that the reserve cannot dip below 28 percent of expenses.
Camilletti compiled similar concerns in a six-page letter complete with exhibits that he presented to school board members at last week’s meeting, in which he calculated the deficit to be nearly $1.3 million.
“Doing what is proposed in this budget is going to force taxpayers to pass a mill levy override or force the district into bankruptcy. That’s why it’s so critical to reduce the expenditures,” Camilletti said. “We’re wanting to do some things that I think have some value but can we afford that with what we see and my take is no… I do know we can postpone computers and additional technology for a year and see if a mill levy passes. If it doesn’t pass and we’ve already encumbered the district, that’s extremely irresponsible in my mind.”
The board ultimately agreed to remove certain expenses from the proposed budget, pending further discussion. Those expenses included leases to introduce iPads and more technology to the classroom, an additional technology position to service those devices and $14,500 of additional funding for school board strategic planning.
Funding for instruction at Maybell School, which has been suspended for the 2015/16 school year due to low enrollment, was also struck from the budget, equaling about $86,000.
The total savings the district would see from the removed items is approximately $250,000 for the coming school year.
“My take is the majority of the board seemed torn by the fact that we had to table these items,” said board president JB Chapman. “It was about dollars and cents and not spending before you had it.”
The board agreed, however, to fund a second school psychologist.
The district currently employs only one psychologist for all six schools and agreed a second one is needed in order to alleviate strain on teachers and distractions from learning due to the growing emotional needs of many students.
“I think it’s imperative, not only for those kiddos in those times of need but for the entire school and the learning environment,” board member KC Hume said. “It pulls teachers away and for them its very frustrating because they’re dealing with circumstances they’re not trained to deal with.”
The public comment period in Thursday afternoon’s meeting was largely dominated by teachers, parents and administrators expounding on the dire need for resources in the district — including technology — complaining of a lack of textbooks for students and low morale among teachers.
“Where are our book fees going? (We pay) book fees, and I have kids that don’t have books to study, to do homework with?” Stacy Atkin said, mother of eight children in kindergarten through 12th grade. “If we’re going to have to pay fees, I’d rather pay $200 at the beginning of the school year and know it’s going towards something… If they need iPads or they need computers or they need some type of book to learn, it’s gotta happen.”
At least seven individuals directly asked the board to reconsider its decision to eliminate one-to-one devices from the budget, which would ensure that every student in the district had consistent access to a computer or iPad.
“When you’re dealing with resources that are 20 years old, it’s kind of hard for kids to get into it… Everything is going computer based… Its most up-to-date, it is easy to keep it current, it is engaging because it is colorful, it is action-oriented and it’s a medium by which our kids enjoy learning,” said Ridgeview Elementary School Principal Amber Clark. “Textbook curriculum is not the way that education is going, it’s just not. We don’t want to continue to lag behind our neighbors. We don’t want to continue to be the school district that doesn’t provide the resources.”
The board will vote on and adopt a final budget at its June 25 meeting, to be held at 6:30 p.m. at the administration building.
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For the first time in 18 months, the Moffat County High School auditorium will fill with music and singing from students, as the school performs MCHS’s musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”