Granby " Instructors, coaches included in East Grand schools budget cuts | SkyHiNews.com

Granby " Instructors, coaches included in East Grand schools budget cuts

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Having dipped into district reserves last year due to state budget and district revenue shortfalls, the East Grand School District is looking at major cuts for next year, including 10 special education para-professionals, one preschool teacher, and 11 coaching positions.

A district draft budget also reflects cuts on part-time administrative and music positions, the elimination of August summer school, fewer field trips and textbook adoptions as well as reductions in hours for some contracted employees.

“We are going to see a level of changes we haven’t seen around here in a long time,” said Superintendent Nancy Karas.

The district’s preliminary budget reflects a $188,000 shortfall entering the budget season, compounded by a shaky state allowance in the amount of $181,000 ” funds that need to be placed in a reserve, depending on the shape of the state budget going into January.

Since the state anticipates coming up short by roughly $110 million mid-year, it may look to K-12 education to stop the gap, Karas said. Districts would be required to return funds to help out the state education budget. If not, the state has indicated those funds may not be used for permanent expenses, such as salaries, Karas said.

For months now, administrators have been poring over the budget with a fine-tooth comb, looking for ways to maintain teacher’s salaries, yet backfill what’s necessary.

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“My goal is that next (fiscal) year, we’re going to do everything we can for the budget to end in the black,” Karas said. “I think any reserve East Grand School District can build right now is crucial, because I believe today is one of the brighter days we’re going to see in public education funding for a little while, and so the board and the administrative team and the teachers are working to make sure we have solid sound reserves to help carry us through.”

District reserves have declined by about $400,000 since 2007.

Increased utility costs, salary step increases, teacher betterment compensations, medical insurance increases, and declining enrollment in a sluggish economy add to budget crunching.

“I’ve received numerous, numerous pages of ideas from the staff,” Karas said. The superintendent said she engaged all department heads to recommend “permanent” cost-savings cuts throughout the district.

Salaries do not have a base (cost-of-living) increase in the draft budget, but step increases were preserved.

“There was a sense of, make sure we clean the house first. The teachers should not bear the brunt of this crisis,” Karas said. “The district needs to tighten its belt, we need to make sure we’re doing business as efficiently as it can be, and we need to do everything we can to maintain quality staff and make sure they can survive in Grand County.”

Cuts in the draft budget add up to $522,000.

“The para educators are extremely valuable,” Karas continued, “but I’d rather maintain class sizes and help the special education department do business differently.”

As far as thinning the coaching staff, according to Karas, athletic directors checked public schools around the state and settled on coaching rosters that “bring us more in line with what we see around Colorado.” The budget reflects increasing the ratio of players to coaches in nearly every district sport.

Even so, with state decreases and across-the-board increases such as an estimated $86,000 in future utility costs associated with new square-footage now under construction, the budget still sits about $42,700 short of being balanced, meaning more efficiencies need to be explored, Karas said.

Bond money taxpayers approved for building improvements cannot be used for funding teachers and departments. The operating budget is funded by the state of Colorado and by property taxes.

The second draft of the $17.2 million budget is planned to be reviewed at a May 19 board meeting. Final budget approval is slated for June.

“East Grand still has a fiscally sound budget,” Karas said, “and we want it to stay that way. So we’re going to have to make some adjustments, and we’re going to have to ride this tide together.”

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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