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Tax payers catch a break

USD 323 lowers mill levy

USD 323 Superintendent Darrel Stufflebeam uses buckets to help explain school finance law prior to the regular board meeting held Wednesday night. photo by Beth Howell Day, The Smoke Signal.
August 14, 2014
Rock Creek taxpayers will catch a break, as the USD 323 board passed a budget that dropped the mill levy 2.37 mills from last year.

It will drop from 50.319 to 47.925.

The move came after a budget hearing which opened the regular meeting Wednesday night at Westmoreland Elementary School, with no input from any patrons.

Prior to the meeting, Superintendent gave a short presentation on school finance where he focused on the impact of the latest court case and the importance of equalization, which was resolved this year.

"One mill can raise several million dollars in a wealthy district, but only a few thousand in a poorer one," he said. "Equalization means that students should have the same education regardless of their school district's wealth."

As part of his presentation, Stufflebeam also discussed the various funds used by the school district and where the money for those funds came from and how the money can be spent. For example, the general fund comes from headcount and weighting to get an "FTE" (Full Time Equivalent) number. The headcount portion highlights the importance of enrollment increase to the budget.

"The headcount is the number of students enrolled by the official count date," he said. "The weighting can be a number of things." He listed students more than 2.5 miles from school, districts less than 1,622 students, students who qualify for free lunch, bilingual students, vocational students and students attending school in a new facility being used for the first time.

The latter will benefit Rock Creek for two years due to the expansion of Rock Creek Junior/Senior High School and St. George Grade School.

"We will be able to claim the new classrooms and new strength and conditioning building," Stufflebeam said.

He ended his presentation by noting last year, Rock Creek had the lowest mill levy in the area, barring one, and that if the board approved, that would drop this year.

In other business:

Kallie Hodges was appointed to the board, replacing Sara Walker.

Stufflebeam reported enrollment is up.

"We are still tallying the student count and as soon as we have an accurate one in Powerschool we'll let you know. I think it will change a little between now and the official date, but it looks like Westy will be up more than we thought, in the area of 15; St. George around 20 and I'm not sure about Rock Creek. But, all three schools are going up and business is good."

The board discussed issues with the new restrooms at Westmoreland Elementary School. After several attempts, the work was still not done correctly.

"That's the reason I had the board take a look," said Stufflebeam. "Do they tear it out for a fourth time? Leave it? Obviously if they take it out, it won't be done in time for school."

He said there were no functional issues "but it's not exactly what we would like."

The board decided to have the company redo the tile, but one bathroom at a time.

The board had a long discussion about the softball field. To save money, it is being done with volunteer labor as much as possible, but there are material costs.

Martin Hanney, architect, showed several options for the dugouts, back stop, etc., and the board made several selections.

"There is an awfully big group of seniors leaving," said Jeri Brummett, softball coach. "It would be great if we could get it done by March 2, the first practice. And I invite you all to our first game!"


Tags: St. George, UISD 323 - Rock Creek, Westmoreland

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