The Park City Board of Education unanimously passed a 2021 preliminary budget. The legislature asked Utah’s school districts to calculate up to a 10% cut in budgets for the coming school year. A special legislative session begins tomorrow (Thursday) to determine how deep the cuts will be. This all happening amid staff and teacher contract negotiations.
Park City School District Business Administrator Todd Hauber hopes the worst case scenario does not come to fruition but he felt it was important to delineate for the Board of Education what the real life cuts would look like to the operating budget. If the legislature cuts less than 10%, the school board will reconvene to consider a new budget. He says about a million dollars is saved by postponing some school district projects. There are operational savings from this year’s COVID-19 school shutdowns that they will carry forward on a one-time basis.
“And then we also had some ongoing budget reductions because expenses are coming in less than anticipated as well as we had some positions that were double funded due to grants. And then we’ll see what happens with the special session, if the reduction is something less than that, then the board will reconvene, and we'll build back in any cuts that were not necessary.”
An earlier preliminary budget set aside funding that would have allocated a 3% increase in teacher and staff salaries. Negotiations were abruptly ended by the school board last week. Hauber explains how those funds were folded back into the just passed preliminary school budget.
Hauber hopes the budget discussions are the first item the legislative agenda. He says they can legally take up to 30 days to get it done. They will also consider allowing school districts to use capital funds to help with this year’s operating budget.
“Those dollars are available on a one-time basis. So, as I read the language, it says it's available for fiscal year 2021. So, it really feels like using reserves. We don't want to commit ourselves into a pattern of using the one-time money for an ongoing commitment in the budget. So, it would help temporarily but it really doesn’t provide a long-term solution.”
Should the legislature decide on reductions that are less than 10%, Hauber expects contract negotiations to resume.
“I think there’s every opportunity to pick up the discussions where they left off and move forward in a positive way. The pressure of seeing such a large budget reduction in the face of trying to make a compensation package, was just overwhelming and there just needed to be a pause, and that we had to deal with the first order of business which was the state legislative cuts.”
Teachers can work for a year without a contract. Hauber says it happened in 2012 when he started with the school district. He says later negotiated contracts can take effect retroactively.
Four people gave input during the budget hearings. Shannon Hallwell Schimmer has children in the district and told the board she is concerned about public perception and showing teachers they are valued. Schimmer told board members it’s unclear if salary freezes would impact administration and the district office, as well as teachers and staff. Board Vice President Erin Grady clarified that the salary freeze applies across the board.
“I am expressing my concern regarding the premature termination of negotiations with the teachers and the PCEA. And I would like you to make sure that there is no other restructuring of the budget to allow for some kind of goodwill hazard pay bonus or salary increase to the frontline workers who are out teachers in Park City School District .”
A link to all the public comments can be found on the pcschools.us website.