Public Mum On $13.5 Million School Budget

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Without a single question or statement of concern from the public, the Payson School Board approved a $13.5 million budget Monday for 1999-2000, increasing the district's budget $1.2 million over last year.

The district was afforded a larger budget by the school board this year because the district is receiving nearly $600,000 in additional state revenue, certain fixed costs -- such as the district's excess utility costs -- rose significantly, and the board increased capital spending by $27,000.

The board has committed $948,000 to capital improvements, which includes $362,000 for lease obligations on school vans, playground equipment and computers, $188,000 for new textbooks, and $30,000 for school small-capital expenses such as printers, paper cutters and other minor equipment.

The board is funneling $718,000 of the budget increase into maintenance and operations, which includes salaries.

The board plans to add five teaching positions to the district, which will cost $86,043 in salaries and benefits the first year. The board plans to hire two teachers for the high school, one teacher for the middle school, one teacher for Julia Randall Elementary School and one teacher for Frontier Elementary School.

The bulk of the budget, $11.48 million, is dedicated to maintenance and operation expenses such as salaries, benefits, student transportation, supplies, utilities and campus maintenance.

Earlier this year, the board approved a new salary schedule that boosted district salaries an average of 3 percent, bringing the district's total salary and benefit cost to $9.86 million -- 86 percent of the district's total budget.

But despite the increase, school officials expect local tax rates to drop this year because the district isn't applying for adjacent-ways funding -- money for street and sidewalk improvements near schools, which can raise local tax rates -- and due to new state funding formulas, which have provided the district with additional state money.

"The tax load is expected to go down on our primary and secondary taxes," Payson School District Business Manager Bobette Sylvester said last week, "but we won't know for sure until the fall when the (Gila County) Board of Supervisors sets the rates."

Higher RCMS sports fees
In other business, the board approved a fee hike for Rim Country Middle School athletic programs, doubling the cost of participating in one or two sports and tripling the cost of participating in three or more sports.

The middle school adopted a fee schedule for its sports programs three years ago and set them at $10 a sport per student, with a cap of $20 a student for all sports, or $25 for families with two or more middle school students.

The fee increase raises those rates to $20 a sport per student, with a maximum of $60 a student for all sports, or $80 for families with two or more middle school students.

Under the old fee schedule, the school raised about $2,000 a year, RCMS Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Bill Bowling said. Under the new fee schedule, the school is expected to collect $4,000 to $5,000.

The fees are used to help the school, which has a $1,500 athletic budget, pay for uniforms, equipment, tournament entry fees, home-game referees and other expenses.

The school also has a $9,000 transportation budget for its eight sports teams.

All extracurricular activity fees can be claimed as a tax credit next year under the state's Credit for Kids tax program. For more information, call the district office at 474-2070.

The board also adopted a new K-8 curriculum that was developed by local teachers and administrators to bring the district's curriculum in line with state testing standards. The board approved the new guidelines pending any board member concerns submitted by Friday to district administrators.

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