Re-1 looking at more state funding cuts |

Re-1 looking at more state funding cuts

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A $4.8 million mill levy override approved by Roaring Fork District Re-1 voters last fall provides a cushion as another $700,000 cut in state funding for Re-1 schools is now expected heading into next year.

There are also still more competing funding needs in the district than funds available to cover them, Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Shannon Pelland advised school board members at a Feb. 8 meeting.

“We are in a much better position than we would have been [without the override],” she said. “But, we are still going to have some tough decisions to make, and we’re not going to be able to do everything we want to do.”

Pelland said the most recent state budget predictions for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which begins in July, suggest anywhere between $350,000 and $700,000 in additional state funding cuts for Re-1.

That number is likely to change over the next couple of months as the state budget is refined. The next big indicator will come when the state’s first quarter budget forecast is released on March 21, Pelland said.

Pelland updated the school board on the upcoming budget process, including opportunities for public input on long-term priorities for use of the new mill levy funds.

There will be time set aside for public comments on the budget at the Feb. 22, March 14, April 11 and April 18 school board meetings. Final adoption of the 2012-13 budget is tentatively slated for May 23.

Recently, the school board agreed to reinstate $2.6 million in spending for the current budget year for some immediate needs that were identified. That included buying new curriculum, restoring materials and supplies budgets, hiring back several custodians and giving teachers and staff a one-time bonus to make up for earlier pay cuts.

About $2 million in override funds can either be carried over into the reserve fund or considered for any other spending needs that come up yet this year, Pelland said.

She identified about $6.9 million in potential spending that could be considered for next year, including reinstatement of the district’s salary schedule for teachers and staff.

The district’s $40 million annual budget is bolstered by about $7.8 million in reserve funds. That number is expected to grow to about $10 million heading into next year, Pelland said.

But, “We have to maintain a balance between how much we rely on reserves, and making those hard decisions,” she said.

The Re-1 school board voted 4-0 at the Feb. 8 meeting to allow a new, self-funded wrestling program to return to Basalt High School starting next year. The wrestling program has been consolidated at Glenwood Springs High School for the past several years, allowing students from all three district high schools to participate.

The decision represents a policy shift for the district, which last year imposed a moratorium on new sports programs amid district budget cuts.

Several existing programs for which district funding was cut were allowed to continue as privately funded programs under a set of parameters established by the school board at the time. However, the addition of new programs was not allowed.

The district is reviewing its policy for self-funded sports programs, and the school board appears willing to allow other new programs as long as the district is not on the hook for funding.