Teaching, administrative and classified jobs are on the line as Delta County Joint School District #50 looks to trim $1.75 million from next year's budget.
A budget task force was formed to explore ideas and come up with a list of suggestions for the school board.
The group, which was comprised of 16 staff members, parents and taxpayers, met four times. Jim Ventrello, school district budget manager, presented their recommendations during a school board work session last week.
School board members Pete Blair and Tammy Smith sat in on task force meetings, but the information was new to the three other board members — Kathy Svenson, Jan Tuin and Ron Germann.
All are aware of the drop in enrollment in the 2013-14 school year — 100-plus students in traditional schools and 175 in Vision. But that's just part of the picture, Ventello said. Enrollment is down by 410 over the last five years, and for planning purposes, the school district is estimating a drop of 100 more students next year. Despite the decline in enrollment, expenses continue to increase. Most notable are health insurance costs and PERA (retirement) contributions. To avoid dipping into reserves, Ventrello said the school district needs to trim $1.75 million from the 2014-15 budget.
After weighing all the factors, the budget task force recommended implementing the class size guidelines proposed by the school district leadership team as a means of maintaining equity throughout the district. That recommendation would result in a reduction of 23.5 teaching positions (saving $1,057,500), five administrative positions (saving $350,000) and 10 classified positions (saving $200,000). Savings on fees for concurrent (college) enrollment, athletic costs and transportation add up to another $170,000.
Under the heading of consolidation, the budget task force put lower priorities on moving Paonia students around to save $30,000; moving Hotchkiss seventh and eighth graders to Hotchkiss High School; and closing the technical college campus in Paonia.
Depending on where the seventh and eighth grade classrooms are placed at HHS, some renovations could be required. That led superintendent Caryn Gibson to bring up "the elephant in the room" — consolidation of Paonia and Hotchkiss high schools. If that's an option, she said, there's no point funding renovations at HHS. The budget task force did not want to tackle that discussion, but instead recommended the school board organize another group to look at long-term strategies that will assure financial stability and maintain student success.
There was one piece of good news in Ventrello's presentation — staff members could receive a cost-of-living increase.
The bad news — there is no money left for replacing aging school buses or upgrading technology.
The school district's newest bus is a 2004 model. Technology continually needs to be upgraded, especially since standardized tests will soon be delivered only online.
With those needs in mind, the budget task force has suggested the school board consider asking voters for a mill levy override. The school district can ask for up to 25% of its current levy, which figures out to be 5.66 mills. Ventrello said one mill generates $412,000 in property tax revenue; 5.66 mills equates to just over $2 million.
The tax increase would amount to $8 for residential properties and $29 for commercial properties, per mill per year.
Ventrello was quick to point out the mill levy override would sunset after four or five years, depending on the wording of the question posed to voters.
The other revenue-increasing idea — to bump athletic fees by $10 per participant per sport — would generate just $11,000 per year.
School board member Tammy Smith lamented the discussion seems to revolve around money. "We're forgetting the number one thing in this district — the kids," she said.
"I hope not," Gibson responded. "We need to make sure all decisions are what's best for kids."
Ventrello said there is some support for consolidation in the North Fork, primarily because people are concerned about the quality of programs that will be offered if staffing is cut.
Smith said she wants those details before she makes a decision on the 2014-15 budget. Because those programs are often tied to specific teachers, Gibson suggested an executive session that focuses on personnel needs for the coming year.
Everyone's getting a little nervous about their position, so that discussion needs to take place fairly soon, Gibson said.
Every year, the school district hires 35 to 40 teachers to replace retiring and resigning instructors. They're hoping to keep the number of "displaced" teachers at a minimum by moving them into the open slots created through attrition. There will also be some probationary teachers whose contracts are not renewed, Gibson added.
Two special meetings will be held during the February break, one dealing with personnel and the other with special education funding, upon the request of school board president Pete Blair.
Gibson emphasized the recommendations from the budget task force are just that, and that final funding decisions rest with the school board.blog comments powered by Disqus