Funding priorities for Re-1 override on hold till new year | AspenTimes.com

Funding priorities for Re-1 override on hold till new year

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Roaring Fork District Re-1 school officials will wait until after the first of the year to begin deciding priorities for use of the new mill levy override funds approved by district voters in the November election.

That will allow time for principals at the 11 Re-1 schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt to gather feedback from teachers on building-level priorities.

The district’s Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) Committee, the group charged with negotiating salaries, benefits and other support for teachers and staff, will be meeting in early January as well to discuss compensation priorities.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to have those meetings yet,” Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall advised the school board at its Dec. 14 meeting. “You will need to have that feedback before you can start your discussions.”

District voters agreed in this fall’s election to an additional $4.8 million annually in local property tax dollars for Re-1 schools. The extra funding is intended to offset recent cuts in state per-pupil funding, which has totaled about $5.2 million over the past two years. Additional state funding cuts are expected for 2012-13.

The reduced state funding has resulted in significant staffing and programming cuts for Re-1 schools, including a wage freeze and, at least for this year, across-the-board pay cuts. Thirteen teaching positions were also cut, along with numerous custodial and other non-teaching staff positions.

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Some of the new mill levy override funding will be available for use in the current school year. The school board wants to discuss how to use some of those dollars immediately. The mill levy funds will also be critical to the upcoming 2012-13 budget planning.

“We need to have the most critical issues before us from the teachers before we can address this,” board member Daniel Biggs said.

Biggs also noted there’s a distinction to be made for the general public’s understanding between the mill levy override funds and the other funding that makes up the district’s more than $40 million annual budget.

For next year’s budget, a portion of the override funds will also likely be needed to backfill an expected additional cut in state funding. The amount of that cut will not be known until at least April when the state legislature finalizes the state’s 2012-13 budget.

“I am concerned about waiting too long to have this discussion,” Re-1 Board President Matt Hamilton said, referring to the availability of some funds this school year. “We don’t want to wait until March, then suddenly we don’t have that impact.”

The school board is set to take up the matter again at its regular Jan. 11 meeting.

jstroud@postindependent.com