Re-1 expected to seek $4.8M override | AspenTimes.com

Re-1 expected to seek $4.8M override

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kelley Cox/Post IndependentTeachers in the Garfield Re-2 School District such as Karen Wentzel are busy preparing their classrooms for the upcoming year, which begins next Wednesday for schools in New Castle, Silt and Rifle. Wentzel teaches first grade at Kathryn Senor Elementary in New Castle. Meanwhile, school district officials and school supporters are preparing for a mill levy override ballot question for the Nov. 1 election in the Garfield Re-2 and Roaring Fork Re-1 school districts.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Garfield Re-2 and Roaring Fork Re-1 school boards both continued planning this week to place mill-levy override questions on the Nov. 1 election ballot.

Final decisions for both school boards are slated for special meetings on Monday, Aug. 22, the day before the Aug. 23 deadline for districts to formally notify the county clerk of their intent to place a question before the voters.

Both districts are dealing with budget cuts from declining state revenues for K-12 schools, and face further revenue shortfalls as assessed property values take a dive this year.

A mill levy override would allow the school districts to raise their property tax mill levies enough to offset some of the loss in state tax revenues.

The impact on property owners would be dampened by a nearly universal drop in assessed values. Actual property taxes owed is the result of multiplying mill levy by assessed value.

The Roaring Fork School Board agreed on Wednesday to seek a $4.8 million mill levy override. It would make up for $5.2 million in lost state funding over the past three years for schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

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Starting in 2008, the school district has been forced to significantly slash expenses.

According to a mailing sent out to district residents this week, the district has already:

• Frozen salaries and, for the 2011-2012 school year, initiated salary cuts.

• Cut 80 full or part time staff positions, including 15 teaching jobs.

• Eliminated purchases of new textbooks and district funding of summer school.

• Cut spending at the district office, food services, transportation, maintenance and groundskeeping, and athletics.

School Board President Bob Johnson said that on Wednesday, the school board held “an exhaustive conversation” about exactly how to proceed with plans for a mill-levy override.

Johnson said the district’s staff has not yet produced a formal proposal for the board to vote on, but on Wednesday the board agreed to put the override “right at $4.8 million.”

The fiscal shot in the arm, Johnson said, would allow the district to rehire teachers, make up for cuts in curriculum and educational materials, pay salaries that are competitive with other districts in the state, and take other measures to keep classes small and ensure that students receive a high quality education.

The exact measures that would be made possible by passage of the mill-levy override, he said, are expected to be laid out in detail at the Aug. 22 meeting.

The Garfield Re-2 School Board has not set a dollar amount, but worked on Tuesday to develop the language to include in its ballot question.

School Board President Jay Rickstrew said it is difficult to ask property owners to pay more to cover the district’s budget shortfall, but it has to be done for the district’s schools in New Castle, Silt and Rifle.

“It’s a tough time,” Rickstrew said. “It’s tough for everyone, but this is something we need to take to our voters and ask them to decide.”

Following a discussion, school board members directed district administrators to continue work on the question, including a specific list of how the funds would be used if the mill-levy override were to pass.

School board members Chris Pearson, Brad Moss and Scott Doherty supported the district moving forward with the ballot question. Board member Lee Krauth was absent.

jcolson@postindependent.com

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