So. Sanpete School District administrator says ‘weight
of the job’ surprised him
By Anita Lyons
MANTI—A school administrator might know how to do a job before taking it, but feeling the weight of doing the job is a different matter.
Jake Hill, new Business Administrator of South Sanpete School District, said the pressure that came with the job surprised him.
“I didn’t realize how many big, crucial decisions you have to make and how often and fast they come,” he said.
Hill took over as financial head when veteran Paul Gottfredson retired in July 2020.
“He’d done the job for 35 years and was very well respected and recognized,” said Hill.
Other school districts used to call for Gottfredson’s advice. Now, Hill said he calls for the advice and strives to make the transition to a new administrator as smooth as possible.
He is in charge of the $41 million budget, which provides for 550 employees. He also maintains facilities in Ephraim, Manti and Gunnison.
On top of that, he’s in charge of the South Sanpete Credit Union, a completely different entity, which has about 200 members. Hill said, “When you have this kind of responsibility, it’s hard to turn it off when you leave.” He’s often thinking of things he needs to do after going home to Gunnison for the night.
Currently, Hill is following the Utah Legislative Session, preparing for summer capital projects and working on a plan to utilize federal grant money the District received.
He remarked that with each decision, “There are lots of factors, and you have to have the best data and the right people around you to make the best decisions. I work with great people.”
He’s optimistic about the coming year for Utah schools.
“The outlook is more positive than negative. Utah has always had a good rainy-day fund saved up for potential issues like this [pandemic].” Most district funding comes from the state: 79% from the state of Utah, 14% from Sanpete County and 7% federal.
State grants and the federal government mostly paid for the increased demand for hand sanitizer, wipes and other disinfectants, but businesses and citizens have also donated supplies to help keep the schools safe.
At this time of year while the legislature is in session, the business administrator would normally be spending one or two days a week at the state capitol building. There they attend meetings to hear and share views with legislators. Hill said that it’s nice to not have to travel this year, but it’s hard to get as much out of the meetings, since internet connections are not always reliable.
Overseeing the maintenance of district facilities is another big aspect of the job.
“There is always a maintenance issue when your buildings are as old as ours,” he said. “It’s crazy how expensive they are to maintain.” He’s glad for the help of Maintenance Director, Andy Cox, who researches solutions and costs, then reports findings and offers his advice.
Leslie Taysom, who replaced Hill as accounting director, helps with insurance, payroll and accounts payable. Hill served the school district as the accounting director starting in 2013. Before that, he worked two years as an auditor for the Utah State Tax Commission. That experience helps him prepare for two audits per year at the district.
The son of Donald and Denise Hill, Jake was born and raised in Gunnison Valley. Hill started dating Denise Fjeldsted when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman. She waited for him while he served his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rapid City, South Dakota. He returned home in September, and they were married in April 2007.
The newlyweds attended Snow College, then UVU, where Denise earned her elementary education degree and Jake chose to major in accounting after taking a business class and liked it. He continued to a master’s in accounting and a CPA license. She stays at home with their children, Janey Belle, Rafe, Griffin, and one coming in July. Hill feels fortunate to have a great job that allows his family to live in his hometown.
He’s facing the future with the attitude he defines as, “Take it one day at a time, and do the very best you can for the students and teachers in the district.”