Tentative 2018-2019 General Fund Budget — FAQs
*NEW* Why does the District have long-term debt?
Recognizing that the current schools and facilities could not accommodate anticipated student and community growth and increases and changes in curriculum offerings, the District began a long-term building program in 1998. At that time, enrollment was slightly more than 2,400 students. Since 1998, the District has built two new schools — Mars Area Elementary School and Mars Area Centennial; added classroom space at Mars Area High School; Mars Area Centennial School and Mars Area Elementary Schools; built an auditorium to accommodate the size of the high school population; and added a gymnasium and built various athletic fields to accommodate more than 3,200 students and a growing community.
Growing school districts incur long-term debt for building construction and renovations as the cost is often too high to be paid from annual revenues and requires financing. The District has continually taken advantage of the bond market, borrowing or refinancing when market rates are favorable. The most recent borrowing is for a proposed renovation project at Mars Area Middle School. After the project is completed, no additional major capital projects are anticipated.
Does the 2018-2019 tentative budget provide funding to replace retiring teachers?
Yes, the tentative budget provides funding to replace all retiring teachers but not necessarily in the same assignment areas as the retiring teachers. The tentative budget includes an elementary (K-6) intervention specialist and provides for an elementary teacher, if needed, to address class size issues. Also, because grade-level enrollment can vary by 30 or more students, teachers may be assigned to different grades or schools than the previous school year to address class size.
What are the projected elementary class sizes for the 2018-2019 School Year?
Class sizes at Mars Area School District’s elementary schools are projected to be similar in size to those of previous school years. The current student-to-teacher ratio is 22.8:1. The student-to-teacher ratio for the 2018-2019 School Year is expected to be 23.05:1.
During the summer months, many new families move into the District and, conversely, many families move out. The District will continue to monitor changes in student enrollment during the summer months. It’s not uncommon for a family to move in and not inform the District or for new families to enroll their students late into the summer.
Will the elimination of private music lessons at Mars Area Middle School result in a reduction in the current music curriculum?
No, the music curriculum currently offered for students at all grade levels (K-12) will not change with the elimination of private music lessons at the Mars Area Middle School. Private music lessons are not part of the music curriculum. Orchestra, band, chorus, and other music electives will continue as currently offered in the 2018-2019 school year.
Middle School Project
Why is a comprehensive construction project needed at Mars Area Middle School? What will that project entail?
A facility study identified more than $16 million in needed repairs to the HVAC system, plumbing, roof, and other infrastructure elements at Mars Area Middle School, which was originally constructed in 1969 and renovated in 1995 and 2001.
At Mars Area School Board’s direction, District administration is working with architects to plan for a partial construction/partial renovation project, estimated to cost $20 to $22 million. The working concept would construct a new two-story academic tower; renovate other existing areas; and address the infrastructure issues. It would feature learning space and capacity flexibility and does not displace students during construction. The middle school will remain in its current location, on the east side of Three Degree Road.
In this scenario, the southern end of the current school is demolished. If the budget allows, the Board will consider a bid option to construct a new varsity-sized gymnasium for school and community use. The gymnasium would be located in the demolished wing area. Bids are expected in early 2019 with construction to begin in Spring 2019.
How does the District expect to “realize savings from contracted services”? Does the District plan to contract out for support staff?
Mars Area School District is constantly working to restructure its vendor contracts for services such as copier services, energy providers, building security, transportation, substitute management, etc. to yield the highest amount of savings possible. Such contracted services are necessary to the day-to-day operations of our schools and are in place to benefit both students and staff. The District and the Mars Area Education Support Professionals Union recently ratified a labor contract that retains the support staff as District employees.