Aspen school budget up 4.1 percent | AspenTimes.com

Aspen school budget up 4.1 percent

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN It will cost more than $16.4 million to run the Aspen schools for the coming year, according to an amended budget the Aspen School District board of directors recently approved.That is up 4.1 percent from last year’s general fund budget of just in excess of $15 million, and it reflects a student population of 1,645, including the Aspen Community School in Woody Creek, and a staff of 193, including teachers and support personnel.The 2007-08 budget, funded mainly by property tax receipts, does not include roughly $33 million to build the new middle school and make improvements to the 15-year-old elementary school, paid for by bonds voters approved in 2005. It also does not cover the cost of improvements to the school’s athletic field, largely paid out of private donations.The Aspen school board preliminarily adopted the budget, based on a fiscal year that follows the school year, last June, and amended it in October. It does not reflect the district’s “contingency fund/beginning fund balance” of $5.69 million, which is the annually budgeted carryover that covers district expenses in advance of tax collections from one fiscal year to the next.It reflects a number of changes in revenues and expenditures the district’s staff requested during the intervening months, including the addition of more than $98,000 in unexpected interest income from the school district’s Bond Redemption Fund.It also reflects the hiring of a new special education director, at a total cost of $90,400 per year, as well as two new special education paraprofessionals (previously known as teacher aides) at a cost of $71,800.District Superintendent Diana Sirko said the new special education director’s position, which has not been filled, is necessary to accommodate the increase in the number of students in the special education program. Sirko said there are approximately 130 students in special education this year, including several with their own dedicated aide. Special education expenses have increased 41 percent in the elementary grades, 25 percent in the middle school and 8 percent in the high school, according to the district finance office.One of the special education students, according to a memo from Sirko and finance director Bill Anuszewski, was expected to require placement in a residential facility. Because that is not the case, the district saved more than $65,000 in tuition that would have gone to the facility, which can go toward the cost of the paraprofessionals.Assistant Superintendent John Maloy will be overseeing the special education program, which is calculated to take up roughly half his time and resources.According to a data sheet Anuszewski compiled, the district will spent nearly $11 million on instructional salaries and related costs this year, which amounts to 66.6 percent of the district’s operating budget.According to Anuszewski’s calculations, the district will spend an additional $2.8 million on benefits, $902,000 on supplies and $622,944 on utilities.Noninstructional salaries include $29,330 for a parking lot attendant, a position the school board created this year to deal with potential conflicts in the campus parking lots. The district also has hired an additional maintenance man, “given the complexity of both the new middle school and high school,” at a salary of $45,000 per year. The new maintenance man is “to focus on preventative maintenance” in the buildings, according to the memo from Sirko and Anuszewski.The school’s budget is available for review by residents at the district office, on the schools’ campus on Maroon Creek Road.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com