School committees eye fee increases, kindergarten tuition | SkyHiNews.com

School committees eye fee increases, kindergarten tuition

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado

East Grand School Districts Accountability Committee members introduced details about possible cuts for the 2010-11 school year to the board Tuesday night.

As much as $1.2 million in district cuts are being sought for next year followed by another $1 million in cuts for the 2011-12 school year in an effort ride out decreased education spending on the state level along with other recession-related shortfalls.

Colorado’s “187 school districts are probably having the same discussion that we’re having tonight,” said East Grand School Board President Tom Sifers.

Presentations outlining subcommittees’ findings took place on Tuesday in front of the East Grand Board of Education.

Athletics/Activities

The Athletics/Activities subcommittee was charged with exploring a 15 percent budget reduction for the 2010-11 school year in district-wide athletics and activities, which would translate into $60,000 of savings.

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The subcommittee has preliminarily recommended to the board that first-year cuts could include raising participation fees from $35 to $50 per activity at East Grand Middle School, and from $75 to $100 per activity at Middle Park High School.

The family maximum would be raised from $225 to $300. From research on what other similar schools charge for participation fees in the region, subcommitee spokesperson Dick Romshek said they found East Grand to be in the mid- to low-range. Those students who qualify for free and reduced lunch would have reduced or exempted fees.

The subcommittee also recommended investigating increased gate fees and other additional fees, such as for transportation, equipment and parking. Along with that, members are suggesting a reduction in coaches salaries by 10 percent, and a reduction in supply budgets by 15 percent. By doubling up on athletics trips and some “creative scheduling,” the subcommittee estimates the district could save another 15 percent in transportation costs.

Sponsorships of busses was another idea that was talked about. Having a business’s sign and logo on the side of the bus already has a precedent, Romshek said, with district scoreboards already sponsored by area businesses.

“For year one, the consensus of the subcommittee is we want to make sure we maintain all of the opportunities we have,” Romshek said about sports in East Grand.

But prompted by Sifers, Romshek added the subcommittee may have to have conversations about possible elimination of one or more sports when it talks about the year-two budget.

Salaries and Benefits

Since 86 percent of the school budget is based on salaries, the Salaries and Benefits subcommitee took on the responsibility of producing “the lion’s share” of the cuts, according to volunteer Jim Lahrman as he presented that committee’s initial recommendation to cut one administrator and nine teachers/counselors for a 20 percent savings in next year’s budget.

Along with staff reductions, the subcommittee suggested a cap on cost-of-living increases to base salaries, but recommended to the board that it maintain staff members’ ability to move up on salary schedules based on added experience, “to maintain the integrity of the staff long-term.”

Furthermore in the subcommittee’s initial recommendations, district staff members would be asked to backfill the district’s projected insurance increase of $67,800 as well as take one furlough day to save the district another $51,000.

In all, cuts proposed by the salaries and benefits subcommittee amount to roughly $680,000.

Classroom and Programs

Early education was a main focus of the classroom and programs subcommittee when considering budget proposals for the 2010-11 school year, according to the presentation by subcommittee spokesperson Darrell Woods.

The current-year budget backfilled the preschool budget by $40,000 because of limited state funding. The subcommittee recommended to the board that a working group be assembled to develop a plan on how to make preschool in the district more self sufficient.

Colorado does not require kindergarten; therefore state funding for each kindergarten student is a fraction of per-pupil state funding for students in grades 1 through 12. But the subcommittee pointed out that even though kindergartners are funded for only a half day of schooling, the Colorado state standards are rigorous and require a strong foundation in kindergarten.

Therefore the subcommittee proposes a half-day tuition rate for a full day of kindergarten class.

The tuition would be a monthly rate of $200 to $250 (about $12.50 or $15 a day) to cover the costs of teacher salaries and classroom materials not funded by the state. East Grand School District currently does not charge kindergarten tuition, unlike some other schools such as Steamboat, Hayden, Gunnison and Denver. Craig is considering a kindergarten tuition for next year, according to the subcommittee.

“While it has not been the practice of our school district to pass these costs on to the public, the academic standards from the state along with the lack of funding would lead us to suggest the school board … charge a monthly tuition rate to cover the costs of the program not funded by Colorado,” stated the subcommittee in its report to the board.

It also recommended to the board possible cuts in classroom materials – suggesting teachers buy in bulk and centralize district-wide orders for materials such as paper and print cartridges – and suggested a books and materials fee of $110 per student and a technology fee of $20 per student.

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