Budget cuts on better end of spectrum for Roaring Fork schools
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Roaring Fork School District Re-1 officials are breathing a little easier this week, after initial passage of a school finance bill that reflects a smaller funding reduction than feared, at least for now.
The Colorado House of Representatives on Monday passed a K-12 school finance bill that reflects a 6.3 percent reduction in funding. The bill moved on to the state Senate this week.
“It’s probably the simplest school finance bill I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Shannon Pelland said.
That’s because a lot of the extra funding provisions that typically prolong passage of the annual legislation until mid-April are absent this year, she said.
“My understanding in talking to the [Colorado Department of Education] finance director is that the number probably will move closer to 6.8 percent once it comes out of the Senate,” Pelland said.
Still, that’s on the lower end of a range of budget planning scenarios Re-1 had laid out for teachers and staff last week.
Pelland, working with the district’s Interest-Based Bargaining Budget and Salary Committee, outlined three different budget scenarios for the 2010-11 fiscal year beginning in July, including one based on a 6.3 percent reduction, a mid-range reduction of 7.75 percent, and a “worst-case” 10 percent reduction.
The district figures it can avoid layoffs or at least handle any reductions through attrition at the lower end of that spectrum. A 10 percent cut, however, would mean Re-1 would have to eliminate around 18 to 20 teaching and staff positions, in addition to pay reductions and possible furlough days.
About $1 million in potential budget cuts have already been identified in preparation for the state’s funding cuts. Among them will be a 20 percent reduction in each of the building budgets at Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt schools for such things as supplies, materials and training.
Other cuts include postponing new curriculum adoption for at least one year, leaving some currently vacant staff positions unfilled, and eliminating the district’s summer school program.
“From what we know at this point it is good news, at least so far as any level of cuts can be good news,” Pelland said.
“The latest economic forecast that came out on Friday also had some optimistic news,” she said. “But they’re also really cautioning people that the economy is extremely fragile, and it won’t take much to send things in the other direction.”
While Re-1 had been taking a wait-and-see approach to next year’s budget until the latest state economic forecast, neighboring Garfield School District Re-2, which includes Rifle, Silt and New Castle schools, is sticking with its budget plan calling for cuts of between 10 and 14 percent.
“When our board looked at the budget options, they wanted to take the conservative approach, knowing what’s coming over the next two to three years,” Re-2 Director of Districtwide Services Theresa Hamilton said.
Additional school funding cuts are also anticipated for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 budget years.
“We felt it was best to take the long-range approach,” she said.
Information about Re-2’s proposed budget is posted on the district’s website at http://www.garfieldre2.org, including a forum for public comments.
Further discussion about the Re-1 District budget is anticipated at Wednesday’s regular school board meeting. The public session is expected to begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Re-1 District Office, 1405 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs.
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