Re-1 teachers face salary freeze, no layoffs |

Re-1 teachers face salary freeze, no layoffs

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Administrators with the downvalley school district are letting out a sigh of relief over budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year and crossing their fingers that a tougher scenario doesn’t unfold for future academic years.

The Roaring Fork School District, which includes schools in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, had to pare $1.04 million out of its budget for 2010-11. It was able to do that without firing teachers, said Shannon Pelland, assistant superintendent, business services.

The reduction in funding from the state wasn’t as severe as once feared, she said. At one point, Colorado officials anticipated state funding for schools could drop 10 percent for the next school year. That scenario would have required the Roaring Fork School District to cut about 30 positions, Pelland said.

Instead, the state reduction will be 6.3 percent. The school district won’t fill four vacant positions, and staffing might be adjusted based on enrollment projections, just as it is every year, she said.

Teachers and other district employees will feel some pain, even if their jobs are secure. Salaries will be frozen for the second consecutive year.

Pelland said district employees generally have been understanding of the salary freeze. She said she keeps hearing employees say: “We want people to keep their jobs.”

“They saw that as their first priority,” Pelland said.

The district anticipates $43 million in revenues for 2010-11. Salaries and benefits account for $34 million in expenditures, or about 85 percent of the budget, according to Pelland.

The biggest budget cut for next year was achieved by postponing replacement of books and other teaching materials. That saved about $250,000, according to the proposed budget. The next biggest item is cutting the operating budget – items such as copy paper, crayons and other supplies – by 20 percent at each school. That will save a projected $158,200.

Pelland said the schools won’t try to offset the operating cuts by charging more in fees. Officials realize households are feeling the fiscal crunch of the recession as well.

The board of education met at Basalt High School Wednesday evening to discuss the cuts with the public, but no parents showed up. The scenario would have been different it teachers were laid off, Pelland said.

Tougher decisions might be on the horizon for school districts in resort areas of Colorado. Property taxes surged because of higher valuations. It’s anticipated that the next revaluation in May 2011 will result in a plunge in valuations to reflect the downturn in the real estate market. That will affect tax bills due in 2012.

If property tax revenues drop significantly for districts like Roaring Fork, Pelland said, the state won’t be able to afford to offset the decrease. It would likely require staff cuts since all other areas are now being cut.

“That’s part of the alarm bells going off,” Pelland said.