FALLS CITY — The 2017-18 Falls City School District budget includes money to hire more teachers and, depending on how the bids come in, build an elementary school gym.
The budget committee approved the budget on May 16, with a grand total of $4.2 million and a general fund of nearly $3.5 million.
Next year’s budget is based on state funding in the amount of $7.9 billion. While conversation had been that the figure will be $7.8 billion, which would mean adjustments, Superintendent Jack Thompson is now hearing the figure will be closer to $8 billion.
“I think I’m going to be safe and I’m not having to go back and make cuts,” Thompson said.
The approved budget gets the district a step closer to one of its main objectives at the elementary school.
“The board’s long-term goal is to have a teacher at each grade level,” Thompson said.
Most classes at the elementary school now have combined classes with two grade levels taught by one teacher. This year, the district split the seventh and eighth grade classes because it would be too big combined.
Next year, it’s the first- and second-grade class that is projected to be crowded.
“Our first and second grade would be 35 if we left them combined,” Thompson said.
The committee decided to add a teacher to split the classes, but also leave the seventh-eighth grade classes separate, even though the student count wouldn’t be so high in 2017-18.
“The board really wanted to not move backward,” Thompson said.
At the high school level, the staff is being shuffled with the creation of a dean of students position, which will be filled with a “teacher on special assignment.”
The position was created because Thompson will be leaving the district after this school year. He served as the high school principal in addition to superintendent. The elementary school principal will be the district’s interim superintendent next year, so a supervisory position is needed at the high school.
Student discipline, day-to-day operations in the school, and teaching two classes will be the primary responsibilities of the post, which will be filled by Micke Kidd.
The part-time science teacher will be moved to full-time and another half-time teacher will be added, with the plan now to teach language arts, Thompson said.
A $400,000 loan to build an elementary school gym is included in the budget. Thompson said the loan hasn’t been secured yet, and the district is in the beginning stages of figuring out how much the building will cost.
He noted the vision for the building has been scaled back significantly after a bond to pay for a bigger facility failed twice. That left the district to face dealing with eventual increases to physical education requirements and crowded practice schedules at the high school gym with limited resources, Thompson said.
“The need has not changed,” he said. “Kids still need a place to play.”
Last week, the board agreed to pursue a bid from a steel building company for a basic structure with a floor, heat and electricity.
Thompson said that company indicated it would be possible to build that for less than $400,000 leaving room for permit costs and a contingency for overruns. He said the district will have a better idea in a month or so if it can move forward with its plan.
The Falls City School Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on adopting the budget on June 13.