The Platte Canyon School District RE-1 held a public budget hearing on May 25. A public budget hearing is part of the legal requirement for the district’s budget process.
Board members Katie Spodyak, Joe Burgett, Amy Carman, Heather Prewitt and Frank VanDeHey were all present at the meeting. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the board approved the agenda.
Superintendent Mike Schmidt began by explaining the budget process begins with each School Accountability Committee making budget recommendations to the District Accountability Committee. Schmidt reported the priorities for the budget determined by DAC. The top priorities are to increase staff compensation, hire full-time Sheriff Resource Officers at Deer Creek Elementary and Fitzsimmons Middle School, Career and Technology opportunities at Fitzsimmons Middle School, and target programming that provides hands-on engaging activities for students.
Schmidt explained the current base for licensed teachers is $37,030 which makes the hiring of new teachers difficult. This is an ongoing issue for PCSD, being right next to the large Jefferson County School District. There are three ways to raise compensation: The first is to dip into reserves. The second is to increase funding. Decreasing staff is the third way to raise compensation, as there are then more funds for fewer people.
Schmidt explained that current target programming includes Yacht Club and silk screening programs at PCHS.
Two other DAC budget recommendations were playground equipment at FMS and to combine Career and Technology Education for FMS and programming at PCHS into similar verbiage.
Cindy Sheriff represented the Financial Oversight Accountability Sub-Committee and its budget recommendations. The FOASC recommends the district adopt a student activity fee hiatus, complete a line-item consolidation on budget items and eliminate the supplemental budget.
Megan Smith, representing the Deer Creek Title I program, including Read Act Intervention and also the PC Education Association, was the only person commenting on the budget during the public comments section of the meeting. Smith explained that the Title program is currently serving 90 students at DCE.
The estimate of students qualifying for Title services for the 2021-2022 school year is 105 students. The program utilizes three licensed reading specialist teachers and one paraprofessional.
Since a long-term paraprofessional with specialized training retired, the program has had a difficult time keeping a paraprofessional in that position. Smith would like to see increased compensation for paraprofessionals in these highly-specialized positions.
Smith reported that the PCEA is concerned with class sizes for grades kindergarten to second.
Ashley Stephen of Platte Canyon Business Services reported three changes to the budget since the initial proposal. Two positions for PCHS have been combined. The Gifted and Talented position has been eliminated from the district. Those mandated services will be provided by current teachers being given a stipend. The secretary to the board of education position, held by Ryan Korthius, was not added to the initial budget.
Members of the board then had a discussion regarding some the issues with board members recommending the administration to “be creative when consolidating positions.”
There are three openings for bus drivers for the 2021-2022 school year. These are difficult positions to fill, as a bus driver requires a Commercial Driver’s License. Most people with a CDL license can make more money in other positions than as a school bus driver. The recommendation is to increase the base salary for bus drivers to $16.50 per hour for next school year.
Paraprofessional pay was also discussed. Schmidt explained that the same issues with pay and retention occurs across all positions including custodians. “Many start but don’t stay,” explained Schmidt. “Some have been here long-term.”
Prewitt recommended that the budget process should start earlier next year with the preliminary budget submission in March and the public hearing in April. Prewitt explained this would allow the board “to have a more meaningful discussion about priorities.”
Budgets are available to review on the District website under Financial Transparency. Budgets are also available for review at the District Office at 57393 U.S. Highway 285, Bailey between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.