Re-1’s budget reduction plan will save 17 teaching jobs

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 will use $400,000 in general fund reserves and some of the money that was put back into the state’s budget to save 17 teaching positions that had been on the chopping block for next year.

The district still plans to cut 15 teaching positions, including 13 general education teachers and two vocational school positions, as part of a $2.6 million budget reduction plan that was adopted by the Re-1 Board of Education Wednesday night.

Also included in the budget reduction plan will be:

• A 1 percent across-the-board pay cut for all district and school-level administrators;

• Two furlough days for all other employees;

• A continued freeze on wage increases based on length of time with the district;

• Another $222,000 in cuts to classroom supplies budgets;

• $556,696 in cuts to building custodial services, including 14 positions;

• $107,273 in District Office cuts; and,

• $161,705 in cuts to high school and middle school athletics.

Many of the proposed cuts came from the district’s Interest Based Bargaining committee recommendations, which were also approved by the board Wednesday. The IBB committee is made up of district teachers and staff.

The budget will include $850,000 intended to reduce the number of teaching positions that otherwise would have been lost, pulling from district reserves and using the revised per-pupil figure that’s now included in the latest state budget plan.

Use of the reserve funds for next year is viewed as a bridge to save those teaching positions, at least for one year.

The school board also voted unanimously to begin exploring a mill levy override proposal that could be put to Re-1 voters this fall which, if approved, would allow the district to maintain those positions in future years.

But the amount and scope of the mill levy proposal is still to be determined.

“That’s really a question for the public to help us determine,” school board President Bob Johnson said. “The board is really throwing that out there to the communities to spearhead, and it will take a community wide effort to get this done.”

At least one school board member thinks it may be premature to ask voters for a mill levy override this fall. That should wait until at least the following year, after the district has demonstrated that it can cut expenses first, board member Myles Rovig said.

“There are people out there who are reluctant to support an override,” Rovig said. “I personally believe it’s something that doesn’t need to be done for this year (2011-12). Once we’ve made the cuts and show we can be conservative and efficient, then we can consider going to the voters.”

But the district’s financial director, Shannon Pelland, said she couldn’t recommend spending reserve funds without also seeking a mill levy override. The positions that would be saved using the one-time reserve money would just have to be eliminated the following year in that instance, she said.