Aspen schools mull cost of new bill |

Aspen schools mull cost of new bill

ASPEN – Aspen school officials spent part of last week in Denver learning more about a piece of legislation that could cost the district millions of dollars per year.

Under a new state funding formula outlined by Sen. Mike Johnston in Senate Bill 13-213, the Aspen School District stands to lose $2.7 million “right off the top. … From there, our total program under the new bill gets reduced even further,” wrote district Finance Director Kate Fuentes in a recent email to school board members.

According to Fuentes’ memo, that deficit would increase to $5 million once a proposed “hold harmless” period ends.

“We’ve got a great school district and we get great results. … I think it’s obvious we are not just twittering away the money we receive from the state,” Fuentes said Sunday. “So we need to be sure we are able to keep our existing funding in place.”

The school finance bill, which ultimately will require a statewide vote if it’s passed in the Legislature, would increase funding for most of the state’s 178 school districts. Aspen – as well as Garfield School District Re-2 – would lose out because the current “cost of living” factor is eliminated from funding formula.

“We love that there are more dollars for special education, (English-language learners) and at-risk students because that’s obviously very important,” Fuentes said. “But they can’t just turn their backs on something that’s been in the formula for 20-plus years.

“That cost-of-living factor is very important to our district. That’s very real to us.”

While the bill still has a long way to go before being implemented, Fuentes said district officials are being vigilant in following its progress.

“There are changes being made every day to this bill, so it’s hard to say what the end result will be, but we will certainly be watching this closely,” she said. “And I would encourage everyone to reach out to our state legislators to urge them not to change the formula to remove the cost-of-living factor.”

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