Meadowbrook Elementary School has a history of leaking. But it won't get fixed for the coming school year.
"We just don't have the money right now," said assistant superintendent Dave Janak Monday night at the regular bimonthly Rapid City Area School Board meeting.
The pinch of belt-tightening hit board members as Janak presented the district's $221 million budget over the next fiscal year. This marks a 2 percent increase over last year overall but a 6 percent decrease for capital outlay — or building — projects. Following years of dipping into capital outlay to pay for expenses typically accounted for by the general fund, the district now must focus only the most dire infrastructure expenses.
"I have to ask myself if the city's going to come in and shut us down before the first day of school?" Janak said Monday night. "That's where we spend the money, then."
The budget does allot for expenditures on an HVAC system at Stevens High School and a new roof at Knollwood Elementary.
In 2016, an outside consultant targeted Meadowbrook Elementary for possible closure, given traffic and environmental concerns. Facilities service manager Kumar Veluswam said when water enters Meadowbrook, either from Rapid Creek rising or a heavy rain, it doesn't leave the property.
"We've flooded multiples classrooms in that building," Veluswam said.
The district plans to spend $4 million on fixes to Meadowbrook, but only $1 million in the next year.
"We've got a design that solves all those things," he told concerned board members.
As revealed two weeks ago at the school board's study session, a 2016 legislative change attached to the new teacher pay law allows schools to "flex" up to 45 percent of their capital outlay budgets. But this has drained the reserves, sapping the district's ability to take on aging buildings.
"What about South (Middle School)?" board member Sheryl Kirkeby asked. "It was our lowest performing school (on a 2016 consultant's building integrity analysis)."
"Nothing right now prevents us at South from opening that building this fall," Janak said.
Other expenditures include opening up an administrative office for food services at Kibben Kuster Elementary on the west side, which could process applications for free-and-reduced lunches and space for a test kitchen to experiment on new meals. The budget proposal, approved unanimously by the board, also anticipates a 5 percent increase in Western Dakota Technical Institute's $20 million budget due to higher enrollment and technology upgrades.
The board will vote later this summer on a final budget.