Aspen schools face $700K in cuts next year

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen School District will likely have to slash $700,000 from the 2012-13 budget, and chances are those cuts will impact teachers and programs.

“This is where things stand today. … $700,0000 in cuts is the current reality, and it is what we will be planning for,” said Aspen Superintendent John Maloy, noting that districtwide budget-reduction task forces will begin meeting next week to prioritize cuts.

It’s not the first year the Aspen schools will operate on a scaled-back budget. According to Maloy, this next round of reductions comes on the heels of $2.4 million in cuts over the past two years.

“It’s important that folks understand we have been very diligent in looking at how to make reductions with the least amount of impact on the classroom,” he said. “But we have now taken all the low-bearing fruit.”

And while the exact impact of the state’s budget crisis on next year’s bottom line won’t be clear for a while, the Aspen School District is bracing for the worst.

“The $700,000 is based on what we know to be accurate and real,” the superintendent said, adding that next year’s number would actually be much larger if not for voter-approved mill-levy funds that are offsetting the damage. “How to proceed is an ongoing discussion we need to have at a higher level, but we need to have a plan in place that looks at the worst-case scenario.”

In fact, Maloy and district chief financial officer Kate Fuentes are attending this week’s Colorado Association of School Executives conference to get the latest information on budget changes at the state level. It is information they will share with the community at a Board of Education Communication Forum, scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 7, in the Aspen High seminar room.

“At this time we will share everything we’ve learned,” said Maloy. “Obviously some of it will be speculative, but we can make some reasonable assumptions about what the future may hold for public schools across the state and in Aspen. This is information parents and the community needs to know.”

The budget outlook is just one part of next week’s forum. Also on the agenda is an overview of changes in the state’s student assessment program, as well as an update on the new “educator effectiveness program,” which provides guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations. Jo O’Brien, assistant commissioner of assessment, research and evaluation with the Colorado Department of Education, will give the presentation.