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Mabton schools budget reviewed

MABTON - Despite the loss of monies from several grants, Mabton School District Finance Director Charlie Plesha anticipates business as usual in the coming school year.

"It's a very good (2007-08) budget and the district is doing well," Plesha told the Mabton School Board at its regularly scheduled meeting this past Monday.

The largest loss to the Mabton district will be in migrant grant funds, approximately $80,870 below what the school district received last year. Plesha said the reduction in funds was anticipated, and that he believes the loss will not be heavily felt due to other funding sources the district is pursuing.

Plesha, too, said a Reading First grant is no longer available to the school district. Had Mabton qualified for that grant this coming school year, $100,000 would have been added to school district coffers. Last year, Mabton received $154,000 in Reading First grant monies.

Mabton, too, won't collect $28,000 in No-Limit Improvement Assistance grant monies as it had in the past, nor does the local school district qualify any longer for a matching grant to help pay the salaries of administrators.

On the positive side of the ledger sheet, Plesha informed the school board of some of the grant monies Mabton will see come rolling in this coming school year. He said three separate GEAR UP grants in the amounts of $69,000, $55,000 and $28,000 are earmarked for Mabton. The smallest of the GEAR UP grants was utilized this summer to train teachers to implement the Advancement Via Individual Determination Program. That program is designed to assist students in preparing for college.

Mabton Schools Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis explained that the program enables students to obtain skills that are helpful in gaining access to Advanced Placement courses.

The Mabton School District is also in the process, said Plesha, of obtaining a new technology grant that would boost education at the grade school, middle school and high school levels.

Plesha also detailed for the school board the status of the district's driver's safety course. Because school districts stopped receiving state funds for traffic safety education several years ago, Mabton like other districts was forced to initiate a course fee. The going rate for the driver's education course, said Plesha, was $275, but "...because attendance dropped when we charged $275, we lowered the cost to $100 for our students," Plesha said.

Pasiero-Davis echoed Plesha's concerns, saying Mabton students have difficulty in paying a $275 fee. She said some students even have problems coming up with the $100 fee, and are placed on a payment program.

The Mabton School Board on Monday talked about raising the $100 fee as much as $50 because of an increase in the number of hours it now takes in passing the driver's education course. But the board opted to postpone a decision until more data is available on the possible impact it will have on Mabton families.

In reviewing expenditures for 2007-08, Plesha said budgeted into the new school year is the addition of a technology director. Mike Roberts has already been hired for that position. The person who formerly oversaw the district's technology department also served as a teacher in Mabton.

Another addition in Mabton will be the hiring of a migrant/ESL director, who will be housed in the administrative offices.

Plesha noted, too, that there will be a slight increase from last year in expenditures for employee benefits and payroll, due partly to a 3.6 percent rise in costs for health benefits. Mabton will also be adding five new staff members to the payroll in 2007-08.

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