Aspen schools need ‘magic bullet’ to avoid cuts |

Aspen schools need ‘magic bullet’ to avoid cuts

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen School District budget outlook for the 2012-13 school year is not as grim as anticipated, but staff cuts and increased class sizes remain a distinct possibility.

“In the past, we have been able to keep cuts away from the classroom, but that is no longer the case,” said Aspen Superintendent John Maloy during Tuesday’s Board of Education Communication Forum. “Unless we find that magic bullet, we will be looking at reducing personnel and increasing class sizes.”

As it stands today, Maloy anticipates having to cut $300,000 from the 2012-13 budget. Districtwide budget-reduction task forces began meeting this week to prioritize the cuts.

“It takes a lot of energy to do this job on a daily basis, and it’s become an even greater challenge over the last couple of years,” Maloy said of teachers, noting that the $300,000 figure would be larger if not for voter-approved mill levy funds that are offsetting the damage. “And unfortunately, as we look to the future, there are more reductions ahead.”

Tuesday’s news is an improvement over Maloy’s original worst-case scenario, however. Last week he said the district likely would have to slash $700,000 in 2012-13. The shift in budget numbers is the result of changes at the state and federal level as well as in high-cost reimbursements related to special education, which district officials learned of at last weekend’s Colorado Association of School Executives conference.

“It is not all doom and gloom. I guess there is some positive information coming from last week’s meeting,” Maloy told the assembled crowd of more than three dozen attendees. “But we need to be planning for the worst-case scenario, plus 10 percent, because it’s all very uncertain.”

Indeed, the future of public-education funding in Colorado remains uncertain. The upcoming round of budget cuts comes on the heels of $2.4 million in cuts over the past two years, and Maloy said the outlook for 2013-14 is even more concerning.

“It does look worse,” he said, estimating cuts of $1.2 million in 2013-14 with no mill levy funds available. “That being said, obviously we will be having discussions about this at the board level so we are able to tackle the challenges that will be before us for the next couple of years.”