The district had a facility assessment study completed during the 2017-18 school year. That information has been used to inform District facility maintenance plans as well as our long term capital improvement plans. During the 2021-22 school year, we conducted a series of staff and community workshops to share ideas and information regarding our long term needs. We then used that feedback to create a community engagement survey. That survey asked our stakeholders about a variety of facility needs as well as tax tolerance to support those needs. The responses received on this survey were used to create the two questions approved by the Board of Education in August. This is the first phase in supporting the district’s long range planning process.
Addressing Needs in a Phased Approach
The district budgets annually for ongoing, routine maintenance as well as some funds to address larger capital needs. That said, the District is unable to allocate the kind of resources required for all major updates, maintenance and renovation work. School districts rely on referendum funds to support these needs to ensure the necessary funds for core classroom instruction are not reallocated.
The process of long-range planning is structured with a strategic phased approach that is often implemented throughout the upcoming five to ten years. District needs are continually considered, which can lead to the prioritization of select projects in certain phases.
Potential for Operational Referendum
Operational funding is based on the revenue limit formula. The formula is complicated but, conceptually, it calculates the maximum amount of money a district receives by multiplying a set amount per student by a three year membership average. The amount a district receives per student can increase in two ways. The state can determine an increase in its biennial budget or a district can go to referendum. During the 2021-23 state budget, schools did not receive any increase in the amount they get per student. School districts were directed to use one-time federal COVID relief funds (ESSER) to balance budgets. SASD discussed this strategy at length at a number of public board meetings during the 2021-22 school year. While, using one time federal funds to pay for ongoing operational costs is not sound budgeting or a wise practice (similar to using a savings account to pay for monthly bills), the district determined that these funds were significant enough that we could manage our budget through the 2022-23 school year with this state directed strategy. We will balance our budget with the use of ESSER funds and some staffing reductions through 2023. At that point, the district will need to reevaluate budget projections and available state information (e.g. will there be increased funding during the next budget cycle) to determine if it will pursue an operational referendum at that point to avoid reductions to programs and services for students.
What if the referendum is unsuccessful?
If the referendum isn’t successful, we will reevaluate our priorities and determine the best way to support the most critical needs with the funds we have available. This will mean reevaluating all district funds, while recognizing that it will not be possible to address the needs identified in these two referendum questions or additional future items within our operational budget. We are proud that we have been able to maintain high quality district facilities without requesting major referendum support for many years. We sincerely hope that our community will support our long range planning and improvement work to continue maintaining and valuing these community assets.