Enrollment, budget issues discussed

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

At the Sierra Sands Unified School District Board of Edu-cation meeting Sept. 13, the board gave Tom Pearl an appreciation award for 10 years of service on the board. “I’m thrilled to see the quality of talent we’ve been able to hire,” said Pearl, also thanking staff members for their service.

The B Mountain Foundation presented a check for $7,500 to the Career Technical Education Building Fund, for Burroughs High School. This money was the result of the foundation’s fund-raising efforts.

At a public hearing, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Shirley Kennedy reported that staff has determined that sufficient standards-aligned textbooks and instructional materials have been provided and will continue to be provided, so that each pupil has sufficient texts for every subject.

There was no public response. The statement was certified and the board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution ensuring that pupils have the texts they need.

Superintendent of Schools Joanna Rummer reported that elementary school enrollment is down five students from last year, and middle school enrollment is down 10 from last year. “Elementary and middle school enrollments are kind of stable,” said Rummer. High school enrollment is down 42 students from last year.

Special Projects Coordinator Laura Hickle spoke about the State Funded K-3 Class Size Reduction Program, which results in funding to the district as well as providing for smaller classes in grades K-3. The board voted to participate in the program again for 2013-2014.

Based on a report by Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Ernie Bell, the board voted to approve a tentative agreement with the Desert Area Guidance Association on contract reopeners for 2012-2013.

In construction news, the Burroughs High School video lab is done, and the construction trades lab is not quite complete but students are now using the lab and getting work done. The modernized woodshop is done and in use. In other schools, shade structures that were put up in 2007 are having the shade material replaced that is worn out.

The board voted to sell two buses. Both were originally purchased through the Clean Burning Fuel Program, and were intended to help cut diesel emissions. Both run on compressed natural gas. The tanks have to be replaced within the next two years, which would cost an estimated $25,000 per bus. Moreover, compressed natural gas is no longer sold in this area.

While the buses were used, served well, and were cheaper to run when the fuel was available locally, they have been parked since April when the fuel was no longer available. According to Director of Food Services, Warehouse, and Transportation Christina Giraldo, the buses are no longer of value or practicality to the district. The board voted to “excess” the buses, both Bluebird 84-passenger models, one made in 2003 and one in 2005. They will be put up for sale by bid in the near future.

Chief Financial Officer Elaine Janson reported on estimated Gann limit calculations for the district, and the 2011-2012 unaudited actual financial report.

In short, the increasing costs of fuel, increasing state-mandated programs, the state’s budget situation, the possibility of federal revenue cuts, special education encroachment, and other factors, the district has many issues before it that could negatively impact future budgets.

“In 2011-2012, the district has been able to maintain a positive ending fund balance as well as its board-required 5-percent reserve in the unrestricted general fund. However, fiscal pressure on district programs and reserve continue to mount in the face of a lagging national fiscal recovery and a stalled state budget process. The possibility of additional cuts to 2012-13 continues to be problematic as it looms on the horizon,” said Janson.

Story First Published: 2012-09-19