Re-1 cautious, despite state’s budget tweaks | AspenTimes.com
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Re-1 cautious, despite state’s budget tweaks

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The latest state budget deal now being debated in the Colorado House of Representatives would put about $550,000 back in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 coffers for next year.

However, that’s only one year’s relief in what’s expected to be multiple years of ongoing state budget cuts for K-12 education, and does little to stave off future cuts in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt schools.

“We are concerned about adjusting our numbers to reflect that amount,” Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Shannon Pelland said at a Tuesday budget work session with school board members.

“The problem is it doesn’t really do anything for us long-term,” she said.

The work session served as a prelude to a lengthier budget discussion that is scheduled as part of the regular Re-1 school board meeting Wednesday evening.

The board intends to finalize the budget reduction plan Wednesday and be prepared to vote on it at the April 20 meeting.

For now, the plan to trim $3.5 million from the 2011-12 Re-1 district budget includes the elimination of 30 teaching positions, 14 building custodians and eight district and school-level instructional support staff.

It would also cut 41 part-time coaching positions, and eliminate the boys and girls high school swim team in Glenwood Springs and two middle school wrestling programs.

This evening’s school board discussion is set to take place between 4:30 and 8 p.m. at the District Office in Glenwood Springs.

The portion of the meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. will be webcast live for residents of Carbondale and Basalt to participate at two satellite locations, Carbondale Middle and Basalt Elementary schools.

There will be opportunities for public comments during both segments of the meeting.

The latest version of the 2011-12 state budget, which was approved by the Colorado Senate on Monday and is now before the House, decreases the reduction in K-12 education funding statewide from $332 million to $250 million.

In Re-1, that would translate to an extra $117 per pupil from the original state budget proposal, or about $550,000, reducing the total budget hit to less than $3 million.

That money would likely be put back into maintaining some of the 30 full-time teaching positions that would otherwise be cut, Pelland said.

However, it doesn’t eliminate the likelihood that those positions, and perhaps more, may be back on the chopping block for the following year when more state funding cuts are anticipated, she said.

Another option being discussed by the school board is whether to put a mill levy override question on the November ballot. If approved by voters, an override would make up some of the budget shortfall in coming years.

If the board pursues that option, Pelland said the district could pull $750,000 from reserves for next year and reduce the number of teaching positions to be cut from 30 to 15.

On top of that, if the extra $550,000 in state funding remains intact, the district could theoretically not make any teaching cuts.

Some board members were uneasy about spending down reserves before going to voters with a property tax proposal.

“I would be hesitant to take $750,000 out of reserves, when we don’t know if we’ll be able to pass a mill levy,” board member Richard Stettner said. He added he would be OK with using the extra state money to save some teaching positions, though.

Pelland said a mill levy override would translate to residential property tax increase of between $5.61 per year for every $100,000 of home value for a $1 million override, and $28 for every $100,000 for a $5 million question.

For commercial property owners, the increase would be $20 for every $100,000 of commercial value for a $1 million override, and $102 for every $100,000 for a $5 million question.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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