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School board checks final draft budget

Building up to next Tuesday’s meeting of the Archuleta School District 50 Jt. school board (6 p.m. at the district’s Maintenance and Transportation building), the board heard a presentation by District Business Manager Jannel Wood Tuesday concerning what could be the final draft of the district’s 2010-2011 budget.

Prior to presenting details of the budget, Wood provided the board and building principals with a brief overview of the budget. Notable in this year’s budget were cuts leveled by the state of Colorado amounting to about $1.3 million dollars, cuts the district needed to address in formulating the 2010-2011 budget.

Introducing her overview, Wood pointed to enrollment trends as another factor in the state’s funding for the district. From 1989 until 2005, the district saw a sharp rise in funded count enrollment, jumping from just over 950 students in 1988 to an historical high level of 1,634 enrolled in 2005. However, since then, the district has seen a steady decline in funded count enrollment, with numbers dropping to 1,568.4 in 2009 and a projected funded count of just 1,526.8 in 2010.

The decimals in funded count numbers represent five-year averages allowed by state statute (the Public School Finance Act of 1994).

Wood made that point clear when board directors asked why, when the state had cut funding to schools by 6.87 percent, the district was cutting its budget by 8 percent.

“We have to, because we have to cut due to declining enrollment,” Wood replied.

Moving onto an explanation of the budget, Wood said that most attention would be paid to the General Fund since it accounted for 70 percent of the budget. The General Fund is the district’s operating fund and includes expenditures for salaries, benefits, purchased services, supplies and materials, and equipment and transfers.

The remainder of the budget is accounted for by 10 percent allocated for the district’s insurance fund, 9 percent for the bond redemption fund, 5 percent for the grant fund, 3 percent in Capital Reserves, 2 percent for food service and 1 percent for the student activity fund.

Cuts in the General Fund were achieved largely by staff cuts through attrition — not hiring to replace teachers who retired or otherwise left the district — and through cuts in districtwide custodial staff. Also, merging the intermediate school and junior high into the Pagosa Springs Middle School cut administrative staff.

The district also delayed the purchase of science textbooks due to the fact that the state just completed recertification of statewide science curriculum. All told, with decreased staff and other expenditures, the instructional portion of the General Fund was cut by 14.6 percent while sports and other co-curricular activities took a 5-percent hit in the proposed budget. Likewise, support (libraries, maintenance staff, guidance counselors, etc.) was cut by 10 percent.

With fewer staff in the district (and so, fewer employees to insure), the district was able to cut 8 percent from its insurance expenditures.

The largest cut was felt in the Capital Reserve fund, at 27 percent.

Looking ahead to 2011-2012 and uncertain if the state would cut an additional $1 million from the district’s budget, Wood’s presentation stated that the district would not rule out a four-day school week nor a proposal to close the intermediate school building.

Furthermore, Wood said that the district should further cut its per-pupil expenses: $180 per student in the elementary school as opposed to the $193.82 per student in the 2010 budget; $205 per student in the middle school as opposed to the $221.60 as currently budgeted; and $225 per student at the high school as opposed to the $262.52 in the 2010 budget.

Aside from concerns about Colorado’s 2011 budget and it’s funding impact on the district, local schools have to contend with a November ballot measure that could, if passed, eliminate further school funding. Should voters pass Proposition 101 in November (a proposal to radically slash vehicle registration fees, eliminate sales taxes on vehicle purchases, rentals and leases, as well as cutting the state income tax rate) the district would take an additional funding cut to the tune of over $600,000 (the district was funded $621,692 in 2010 from income provided by programs that would be cut by Proposition 101).

While the district’s financial stability remains tenuous during the first round of budget cuts made by the state, it remains to be seen how the district will fare if the state mandates further cuts in 2011 and how the district would answer voter approval of Proposition 101.

By statute, the district must finalize its 2010-2011 by June 30 (for certification by the Colorado Department of Education). The school board meets next Tuesday, June 8 at 6 p.m. for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting and to approve a final budget.

jim@pagosasun.com