School officials unsure how state budget cuts will impact Re-1 | AspenTimes.com

School officials unsure how state budget cuts will impact Re-1

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Another round of state budget cuts will impact local schools, but to what degree isn’t yet known, said Shannon Pelland, Roaring Fork School District Re-1 assistant superintendent of business, on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, state budget analysts advised lawmakers that Gov. Bill Ritter will be forced to declare a fiscal emergency, giving him the power to cut $75 million from next year’s state budget after this year’s budget failed to meet a 2 percent reserve requirement.

The cuts will be announced by August, and K-12 education is expected to be on the list.

“The state has been pretty clear that there will be an impact,” Pelland said during Wednesday’s school board work session.

While the local district that oversees public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt should be able to absorb the initial round of new cuts, of more concern will be if enrollment drops significantly when schools reopen in late August.

And even deeper cuts could come when the state releases its initial draft budget for 2011-12 in November – or not.

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“Until then, we won’t be able to do much as far as where we might have to cut locally,” Pelland said. “I wouldn’t want to speculate before those numbers come out.”

Re-1 already made more than $1 million in cuts this year, in reaction to a 6.5 percent cut in state funding for 2010-11. While salaries have been frozen for teachers and staff, the district did not have to eliminate any teaching positions.

That could change if next year’s budget situation worsens. But the district wants to avoid making hasty decisions.

If it does look like there will be significant cuts, Re-1 has exhausted most of its non-personnel options, Pelland said.

“There would be some things that we would want to start getting some feedback on, but it is a balancing act,” she said. “We’ll want to do it without creating widespread panic.”

Different committees are studying a number of areas related to program cuts and a variety of new revenue options locally. However, recommendations are not likely to come until the middle of next school year, she said.

In addition to education cuts, the state is also expected to add more furlough days for state workers, eliminate tax breaks and delay some nonessential state programs.

Before they adjourned in May, legislators passed – and Ritter signed – an $18.2 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Schools will get $365 million less than they normally would under the law that requires school funding increases.

jstroud@postindenpendent.com