Re-1 restores funding in several areas |

Re-1 restores funding in several areas

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – The Roaring Fork District Re-1 School Board agreed Wednesday to immediately restore about $1.3 million in funding, using new mill levy override dollars, in six key areas that had been hard hit by recent budget cuts.

However, the question of pay increases for teachers and staff, or even a one-time stipend for this year, will be a discussion for another day.

Funding priorities using a portion of the $4.8 million in new annual property taxes was the main topic on the agenda for the school board at its meeting Wednesday evening at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. Those extra funds were approved by Re-1 district voters in the Nov. 1, 2011, election.

About $4.2 million is expected to be available for use during the current budget year to address some areas of more immediate concern.

However, the board agreed most of that amount should be held in reserve for next year, in case the state is forced to make even more cuts in K-12 education funding for 2012-13.

“We need to be good stewards of that money,” school board president Matt Hamilton said.

The board did agree to put funding back into several areas deemed critical in recent conversations among district staff. Those areas include:

• $500,000 to provide new language arts curriculum and related materials throughout district schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

• $300,000 to address capital improvements and deferred maintenance at school buildings.

• $191,135 in restored funding for materials/supplies at each of the district’s 11 schools.

• $148,000 for added instructional staff time to support learning intervention for students who need it.

• $119,184 to refill three of the 16 custodial positions that were originally cut for this school year. One “roving” custodian is to be hired in each attendance area to be used where needed.

• $22,000 to cover additional staff development time.

All except the custodial staff positions would be one-time expenses, but could be considered as part of next year’s budget as well.

In fact, the district may hire back even more custodians.

“I think we need more, to be honest,” board member Richard Stettner said.

Of all the cuts that had to be made to this year’s budget, he and the other board members said they’ve heard the most comments from teachers about the impact the loss of custodians has had on cleanliness in school buildings.

“I’ve seen a lot of people [other than custodians] going way above and beyond to try to keep up,” board member Daniel Biggs said.

“I am reluctant to go too big, too fast, though,” he said. “I would like to know how those people would be used first.”

The board did hear pleas from some teachers at the Wednesday meeting requesting that some of the funds be used to give pay increases.

The board postponed a decision on a possible one-time “premium holiday” for health insurance payments for district employees. That would come at an additional cost of $410,000, using the mill levy funds available this year.

Another option could be a one-time stipend paid to teachers and staff, who had to take pay cuts this year as part of the overall budget cuts. The options will be discussed with the district’s Interest-Based Bargaining Committee and considered by the board next month.

The board may also consider raises as part of the 2012-13 budget planning process, which is to begin in March.

In other business, the board agreed to interview two consulting firms at its Jan. 25 meeting to assist in the search to replace superintendent Judy Haptonstall after this school year. The board decided on a 3-2 vote last week to end her contract at the end of this school year, one year earlier than negotiated by the previous school board.

The anticipated 12- to 18-week search process is expected to cost the district $25,000 to $30,000.

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