The La Grande School District is benefiting from some welcome fiscal surprises.

The district received a total of $1.15 million in unanticipated funding over the past six months and is now determining how the money will be spent.

The additional funding is the result of an unexpected enrollment increase of 60 to 70 students — school districts receive $6,000 per student — and a higher than expected state education budget for public schools.

For the 2017-19 biennium, the state provided public schools with $8.2 billion, but the La Grande School District built its budget on the assumption that the state would provide $7.9 billion. The school board finalized its budget while the Legislature was still in session and had not yet determined how much the state would provide to schools.

This means the school
district received $575,000 more than it budgeted for when the $8.2 billion budget was approved last summer.

The school board is considering spending the additional money to help fund a number of projects, including the construction of new tennis courts that costs between $300,000 and $350,000 at the site of the old Central Elementary School, which was torn down last fall because of its poor condition.

The new tennis courts would replace the old ones at La Grande High School that over the holiday break were converted into a parking lot for the new Central Elementary School, which opened in August. The lot is designed to relieve parking and traffic congestion at the new school. The cost of converting the tennis courts into a parking lot was just under $10,000, said Chris Panike, the La Grande School District’s business and operations director.

The tennis courts that were removed were badly in need of repaving. The school district, working with the City of La Grande Parks and Recreation Department, had applied for but not received a state grant in 2017 to repave the courts. Panike said the school district may reapply for the grant to be used for installing post-tension tennis courts, which would be longer lasting. If not, the school district would build the tennis courts with a standard asphalt base, Panike said.

La Grande School District Superintendent George Mendoza said he hopes the new tennis courts will be built this summer.

“I would like to have the tennis courts built as soon as we can,” Mendoza said.

For the complete story, see the Jan. 3, edition of The Observer.