Next year's proposed budget for the Salt Lake City School District includes $8.2 million to cool East, West and Highland high schools, perhaps by spring 1999.

"I'm just excited that we're ready to start," Karen Derrick, president of the Salt Lake City Board of Education, said Wednesday.The district for two years has set aside funds to implement air conditioning, beginning in the high schools this summer.

The 1998-99 budget proposal, presented to the school board Tuesday, also sets aside $7.6 million for a new northwest elementary school and nearly $1 million for structural replacements at Whittier, Franklin and Riley elementary schools and to retrofit Jackson Elementary School.

About $63,000 is earmarked for future air conditioning at Ensign, Hawthorne, Uintah and Washington elementary schools. About $610,000 would upgrade the West High ballfields and build a soccer field at the Horace Mann property southwest of the school. The school board in March voted to allow West to use the four acres.

The district's proposed budget totals $162.9 million - an $18 million or 12.5 percent increase from the current year. More than half of the budget would fund salaries.

"It is always difficult to match scarce resources with the many needs of our educational system and there is never enough to satisfy all needs," Superintendent Darline Robles said in an executive summary. "However, I believe that this budget demonstrates reasonable progress in the effort to satisfy the many needs of the system."

Air conditioning is one need that last fall whirled a sandstorm of public outcry. Some teachers and students became sick as the mercury reached 100 degrees in some classrooms. Nine of Salt Lake District's 36 schools are air-conditioned, as are the school district offices.

Since then, the school board has voted to seek bonds to cool all schools by 2006 and speed up ongoing retrofits for a 2008 completion. No election date has been set, but the district does not want to overlap its bond election with the city's bond proposal for libraries, Derrick said.

Proposed school bond dollars are unspecified, but talks have centered around $90 million, with no tax hikes.

Revenues are exceeding district expenditures as part of about a five-year trend, offering some tax relief for next year's proposed budget. The owner of a $100,000 home is expected to pay $323 in property taxes for schools, about $1.50 less than the previous year.

District enrollment next fall is to dip by 31 students to 25,190. But one more teacher will come on board due to legislative class-size reduction efforts. A new principal also will be hired for the new elementary school, opening in fall 1999.

The budget includes a 4.5 percent increase in per-pupil expenditures to $3,488, keeping the district in the state's upper echelon for pupil spending.

The district last fall also obtained a federal poverty grant, which will allocate $1.6 million over the next five years to help low-income students in targeted areas.

"I anticipate this will the budget we accept in June," Derrick said.