Re-1 details specifics of proposed budget cuts

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Roaring Fork School District Re-1 officials got down to specifics at the second in a series of public budget sessions Wednesday evening, outlining where exactly a projected $3.5 million in cuts for next year would have to be made.

The budget recommendations are still preliminary, and will not be formally considered for approval by the Re-1 school board until next month.

Topping the list of proposed cuts are 30 teaching positions throughout the district, which would account for $1.5 million. The district includes 12 public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

“We are still hopeful we can do most of those through attrition,” Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Shannon Pelland said.

The district had 55 teachers leave at the end of last school year, which Pelland said was a little higher than usual, but not by much.

Given that school districts across the country are cutting back, “That may be a bit of a stretch this year,” Pelland acknowledged.

Decisions on which positions to cut would likely be left to the school building principals. The number of teaching cuts per school would be based proportionally on enrollment, Pelland said.

If any teachers have to be laid off, first-year employees would be first on the list, she said. Currently, the district has 156 “probationary” teachers, including first-, second- and third-year teachers.

The district could backfill funding for some positions, if it decides to ask voters to approve a mill levy override to make up some of the budget shortfall, Pelland said.

“That would be our first goal, to reduce the amount of teacher loss,” she said. “But we also have to look at the structural impact. We’re making some really deep cuts in support areas, and we’re concerned about the long-term affect of that.”

The school board has not formally addressed the mill levy question at this point, but will likely do so when the budget discussions continue in April.

The proposed cuts are in response to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed $332 million reduction in per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade public schools in the state; part of an overall attempt to address a $1 billion state budget shortfall over the next two years.

Overall, Re-1 is proposing to eliminate 92 paid positions.

In addition to teachers, cuts would include 14 of the district’s 41 building custodians, two of three vocational instructor positions, one district office accounting position, and one building administrator position. Some of those cuts may also be handled through attrition, Pelland said.

The budget proposal also includes two furlough days for all teachers and staff, which would result in a $311,000 savings.

Among $161,700 in proposed cuts for athletics and extracurricular activities are 41 part-time coaching positions. Some athletic programs are also proposed to be consolidated or eliminated altogether, primarily those that have the least amount of student participation, district officials explained.

On the chopping block are the boys and girls swim teams at Glenwood Springs High School, and the middle school wrestling programs at Glenwood Springs and Basalt.

Boys golf would be consolidated at Basalt High School, eliminating the programs at Glenwood and Roaring Fork high schools. Girls golf would be consolidated at Glenwood.

Girls tennis is also proposed to be consolidated at Glenwood, eliminating the program at Roaring Fork. The Roaring Fork cheer and dance team coaching positions would be eliminated.

Wrestling would also continue to have a consolidated team at Glenwood, and the Future Business Leaders of America program at Glenwood is also proposed for elimination.

Many of the positions that would be eliminated are for assistant coaches, and the number of contests for junior varsity and freshman teams would be reduced, Pelland said.

“We generally don’t have a lot of trouble filling coaching positions, but some of those will have to become volunteer positions,” she said. “We may also have to adjust some of our [athlete-to-coach] ratios. We do have to watch out for the safety of kids, and there is a problem when there are not enough coaches.”

More than $1 million in cuts to various districtwide support services are also proposed, ranging from a $557,000 cut in the $1.6 million budget for custodian services, to an $80,000 cut in the nearly $1.5 million student transportation budget.

When it comes to custodians, that’s one area that may need to be included in a mill levy override, if one is proposed to voters, Pelland said.

“That’s certainly going to have an impact on our buildings, and will require more pitching in on the part of everybody,” she said. “We don’t see this as a good permanent solution, but it is something we’re going to have to do for the short term.”

Transportation cuts are still largely undetermined, Pelland said.

“We started with a target of cutting $140,000, and looking at some outlying routes,” she said. “There is a concern about doing away with certain routes, because of the traffic impacts, especially at our elementary schools.”

The school board will host one more public input session for the budget from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, at the district office in Glenwood Springs. Live webcasts are also planned at satellite locations to be determined in Carbondale, Basalt and Glenwood.

An online question-and-answer forum also continues at the district’s website,

A final decision on the 2011-12 budget cuts is expected to be made at the board’s April 20 meeting in Glenwood Springs.