As Jordan School District prepares to open five new schools in the next year, the school district proposes a little belt tightening.

The district has carved $1.8 million out of its proposed 1998-99 budget, which totals $374.7 million.While $1.8 million might seem a drop in the bucket, it would be enough to stave off a tax increase, said Superintendent Barry New-bold.

Although the district has money to build new schools and hire teachers, it is scrambling to find money to turn on the lights and heat the building. Students need nurses to attend to skinned knees and counselors to nurse bruised egos.

The district dodged the tax increase bullet this year, thanks to some artful budgeting, Newbold said. "I think it reflects very, very sound and frugal financial management."

But Newbold predicts the problem will worsen as the district brings on a total of eight new schools in the next few years.

The school district will conduct a public hearing on its budget at 7 p.m. tonight in the district administration building, 9361 S. 300 East.

The proposed budget is different from years' past because it ties dollars to goals outlined in the district's five-year strategic plan, adopted in August.

In the first year, $360,000 will be redirected to improve curriculum and teaching.

While student numbers swell in the northwest and southwest quadrants of the school district, declining enrollment elsewhere has off-set the increase. The enrollment estimate used to prepare the 1998-99 budget was 72,765, about 170 more students than enrolled in the 1997-98 school year. In other words, enrollment is expected to climb less than 1 percent.

However, enrollments projections suggest that more than 76,000 students will attend Jordan District schools, which speaks to the need to construct eight schools. Seven of the schools - five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school - will be built using proceeds of a $154 million bond issue approved by voters in 1997.

The eighth school, an elementary, will be paid for using state building aid funds.

While enrollment isn't expected to increase much, the district will be able to hire 28 additional teachers in the seventh and eighth grades due to a legislative initiative intended to cut class sizes in those grades.

The budget also reflects the launch of a $750,000 five-year effort to install panic buttons in every classroom. The district plans to spend $50,000 the first year of the program.

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Additional Information

Budget - School District

Total budget: $374.7 million

1998-99

Total budget: $370.5

1997-98

Where it comes from:

State funds: $213 million

Local taxes and fees: $145.8 million

Federal funds $ 15.4 million

Where it goes:

Instruction: $191.7 million

Support services $ 8.3 million

Capital projects $ 79.2 million

Debt service: $ 25.2

District valuation $13.6 billion

Total tax rate: .006494