School district considers charging for kindergarten |

School district considers charging for kindergarten

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Faced with a $450,000 budget deficit, Aspen School District officials are considering serious measures to balance the budget, including the possibility of charging parents for kindergarten.

The school district financial advisory board met yesterday to consider possible responses to a financial crisis that the district superintendent termed “significant.” The district’s annual budget is approximately $15 million.

“We’re looking at different areas, doing our best to keep cuts away from students,” Dr. Diana Sirko said. “Obviously though, with this much money, the students are bound to be affected.”

Superintendent Sirko said cuts in supplies and materials, as well as increasing athletic fees, were likely responses to the financial crunch. She also confirmed that the district is considering charging tuition fees for kindergarten students.

“The state only funds half a day of kindergarten,” Sirko said. “Many school districts charge for the other half. We traditionally haven’t, but we are considering it now as a possibility.”

Sirko blames the budget shortfall on a variety of factors, most prominently cuts in state funding. The 1991 TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) amendment to the state constitution, which restricted increases in public spending to the rate of inflation plus growth, has hampered education spending, according to Sirko.

A weak economy resulted in a consumer price index that only increased by 1.1 percent last year, translating into less funds than the district expected.

Sirko also said inattentive district spending has contributed to the shortfall.

“In past years, we’ve addressed inequalities in staffing. It’s easy to approve a person here and person there, without realizing the cumulative financial effect,” she said.

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