The La Grande School Board voted Wednesday to adopt a supplemental budget of $1.15 million, allowing the district to spend unanticipated revenue it received for the 2017-18 school year.

The exact nature of how all the money will be used has not been determined, but a significant portion of the money will likely go toward building maintenance projects, said La Grande School District Superintendent George Mendoza.

“This is a prudent and responsible step. It will help us address facilities’ issues that need to be taken care of,” Mendoza said.

The additional funding is available because of an unexpected enrollment increase of 60 to 70 students — school districts receive $6,000 per student from the state — a higher than expected state education budget for public schools and $200,000 from a facilities grant from the state. The state provides school districts that add building space, which La Grande has done over the past two years, with a percentage of the construction cost, said Chris Panike, the La Grande School District’s business and operations manager. Panike is projecting La Grande will receive the equivalent of 1 percent of its building costs.

The supplemental budget’s expenditure list includes $250,000 to help Eastern Oregon University pay for the installation of artificial turf at Community Stadium. EOU would like to install artificial turf at the stadium this summer as part of a $1.6 million project that also includes new lights and handicapped accessibility improvements at the facility.

Presently the school district uses Community Stadium for approximately 10 La Grande High School varsity and junior varsity football games a year. Once artificial turf is added, twice that many LHS events could be conducted at the stadium each school year, Mendoza said, including soccer games and practices.

LHS boys soccer coach Wade Wright said having an artificial turf field available for games will be wonderful, especially late in the season when inclement weather often prevails.

“When conditions are muddy and soupy (on grass fields), it will be very, very nice (to have artificial turf to play on),” Wright said.

The soccer coach also noted the team would benefit from an artificial turf field when preparing for the state playoffs. He explained most of the team’s road games in the playoffs are on artificial turf so being able to practice on it will be a big help. The biggest difference between playing soccer on artificial and natural turf is that the ball rolls faster on artificial turf, Wright said.

The supplemental budget also lists $6,000 for an additional school resource officer in 2017-18. The school district presently has one school resource officer, Union County Sheriff’s Deputy Cody Bowen, who works full-time. If a second resource officer is added, he or she would serve a consortium made up of most of the outlying school districts in Union County as well as the La Grande School District. The new school resource officer would be funded by the consortium members. Mendoza said La Grande would have a school resource officer an additional eight hours per week if the consortium succeeds in hiring one. The superintendent believes this would be a plus.

“There is no safer feeling than when you have a school resource officer in your school,” he said. “It brings safety and a calm presence to your school environment.”

See complete story in Friday's Observer

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