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Smith: Not a fancy program

PRINCETON — Princeton Elementary School students are getting a good, basic education, but nothing fancy, according to Superintendent Tim Smith.

At Monday’s meeting of the PES Board, Smith said he’d love to do provide more for the students, but the district just doesn’t have the money to do it. The biggest problem is the lack of revenue from the state, which has cut funding and is consistently late on its payments of what funding is still there, he said.

Looking at specifics, Smith said the district has lost $1.2 million in state funding during the past three years through the cut of the Hold Harmless program and cuts in the reading improvement and Life Safety grant programs.

“We’re losing money at the local level on our extension, on the state level with our general state aid and with all the mandated categorical funds being cut as well,” Smith said. “The corporate personal property replacement tax was also cut this year.”

As far as late payments, the state owes the district $527,650 so far this fiscal year, Smith said. The owed money breaks down to $391,519 in the education fund and $136,131 in the transportation fund.

With the condition of the state’s economy, he doesn’t anticipate the level of state funding to improve any time soon.

“I do think it’s going to be very difficult for this district for the next two to three years, very difficult,” Smith said. “I think our revenue will continue to be strained, even though I think we’ve done a good job controlling expenses.”

Smith said he will continue to work with the staff to explore cost-saving ideas, including possible cuts, which would still protect the PES program and not hurt students. The district will need to be extremely creative on a number of levels, he said.

“It makes me sick talking like that because we do not have a fancy program at Princeton Elementary,” Smith said. “There’s so much more I’d like to see us to be able to do for our kids that we just flat out can’t do because we have to stick to the basics.”

On a positive financial note, Smith said the district’s equalized assessed valuation (EAV) will increase by about $500,000 when the Leepertown Grade School District dissolves at the end of the school year. The majority of Leepertown’s EAV goes to the Hall High and Ladd Elementary school districts, but there is a small section of property, including three houses and some farmland, which will go into the PES and Princeton High School districts, Smith said.

In other financial business, the board approved the application for a $50,000 school maintenance grant, which would be a matching grant using Life Safety funds. The board also approved adding the replacement of the east main entrance door at Logan Junior High as part of the projects for the grant application.

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