Trustees: No rec funds for summer school
By Brielle Schaeffer, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
January 11, 2013
School trustees Wednesday decided two programs — summer school and an activity custodian — should not be paid for using recreation district funds.
Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Education members voted to apply for $360,000 in recreation district grants for a new Wilson Elementary School playground, school activities, Special Olympics and a therapeutic riding program. But they balked at spending tax money for other programs with little connection to recreation.
Trustee Kate Mead, who routinely votes against the recreation funding requests, led the charge to eliminate some of the school district’s prioritized projects.
“When we say we’re asking the rec district to do it, we’re actually asking the taxpayers to do it,” she said. “Seeing as how we have an amount remaining from our budget last year, I think we should seriously consider taking some of these applications out, budgeting for them in our general fund budget and not asking the taxpayers to pay.”
The school board has roughly $240,000 remaining in its budget from last year, she said, citing a budget audit presented at the meeting.
The trustees were considering asking the Teton County School District No. 1 Recreation District board for $600,000 for six items.
The recreation district funds capital projects, programs, supplies and activities for the school and community from a special tax first implemented in 2007. The school board can levy up to 1 mill of property tax for recreation district items. The tax has been generating about $1 million a year. For a house worth $100,000, one mill generates $9.50 a year in taxes.
Mead voted against every grant application, but not because the requests lacked merit, she said.
“I don’t think we should be going about it in this way,” Mead said. “It’s ridiculous to ask the public to pay yet again for something that should be coming out of our own budget.”
The district can fund these projects itself, but it may have to tighten its belt, she said.
Other trustees worried that not including the other programs would be a missed opportunity to take advantage of recreation district funding.
“I don’t disagree with you about the school district’s responsibility to take care of its own stuff,” Trustee Paul D’Amours said. But, “there’s nothing that would prevent us withdrawing our application from the rec district before they were to act on it.”
But trustee Syd Elliott said she questioned if the application for $80,000 in summer school funding was an appropriate use of recreation district funds.
“I had some concerns about the application itself and the number of students it’s serving,” she said after the meeting.
If a request for summer school funding from the district’s budget came back to the board, she would support it, Elliott said.
The district also has a $400,000 request to the recreation district board to finish a multi-year stadium renovation project on the table from last year, D’Amours said.
The recreation district board granted the district half of its $800,000 request last year to pave a parking lot by the football stadium and held the remainder of the request for future consideration.