Dickinson schools budget committee talks growth, funding: Employee retention a concern amid other strugglesOil Patch schools are struggling to plan for the 2013-14 school year, and as Dickinson Public Schools tries to expand with a new elementary school, worries are beginning to surface about funding and employee retention.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
Oil Patch schools are struggling to plan for the 2013-14 school year, and as Dickinson Public Schools tries to expand with a new elementary school, worries are beginning to surface about funding and employee retention.
The impending needs of the growing school district were addressed Wednesday by the Dickinson Public Schools Budget Committee at a special meeting in the Central Administration Office.
One of the largest expenses for the district over this and next years’ budgets is the completion of Prairie Rose Elementary School.
The expansion of the public school system in north Dickinson will hold significant start-up costs for the district.
“We have about $1 million to gear up to buy everything from globes to vacuum cleaners to student desks and lunch tables and pipe cleaners and staplers. … We’re going to try to buy all of the essential things they need in this year’s budget,” Reep said. “It’ll cost us some money to bring this online.”
About half of the Prairie Rose staff will transfer from the district’s three other elementary schools, while the other half will be hired, he said.
DPS has budgeted $1.8 million to staff the school, Reep said. It removed approximately $300,000 combined from the other elementary schools’ staffing budgets.
The district hopes to have the new school fully staffed for the next school year by the end of this one.
“There’s a lot of other expenses,” Superintendent Doug Sullivan said, “a lot of needs for the district in terms of our growing population.”
One of the issues officials are struggling with is not knowing exactly what will happen in the coming years, which members agreed made budgeting hard. Exact numbers for the 2013-14 year have not been locked down.
There is harmful perception that being in oil country makes a school district rich, School Board member Leslie Ross said.
“So little of that money gets directly to us,” Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep said. “We are now getting royalty checks on (an acre of land leased to an oil company.) The first one was $150.09. Whoop whoop! After about 12 more of those we’ll get an interactive board for Prairie Rose Elementary.”
A cap on mill levies and relief payments from the state could impede funding, Reep said.
“There is no contingency in the state plan that has addressed what we have going on here,” Ross said. “It’s not like they haven’t had time to do it.”
The district expects an increase of $100 to $120 per student in the next school year, up from $3,980 this year, Reep said.
DPS School Board is also looking to add two teachers to Hagen Junior High to keep up with enrollment growth.
In order to obtain and retain staff, classified salaries may need to be increased across the board.
“As we increase the beginning salaries for hiring new people, we need to be aware that we have to pay those that are still with us,” Reep said.
Other than salary increases, Ross urged the committee and Sullivan and Reep to look at alternative benefits to help keep people in the district.
“Is the salary the one thing that keeps them, or are there other creative ways?” she said, suggesting a survey of the classified staff to see what is important to them.
“I worry about that a lot, keeping our people here,” Reep said.