East Grand grapples with massive budget cuts | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand grapples with massive budget cuts

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County

A projected loss of $300,000 in property-tax funds is an unwelcome blow to an already fragile budget at the East Grand School District.

Although the shorted tax amount has not yet been calculated, any unforeseen loss in budget income compounds the district’s budget crisis, according to East Grand Superintendent Nancy Karas.

Not counting the loss in tax income, guessed to be about $100,000, the district faces $2 million in cuts over the next two years to balance budgets and safeguard reserves needed for future years.

Budget challenges are many.

The Colorado Department of Education’s adjustment to the School Finance Act decreases funding to the district by 6.12 percent, equating to less $638,595 per year for the next two years.

Meanwhile, student enrollment is on target, Karas said. The district budgeted for 20 fewer students in its 2009-10 budget, which was near accurate. In the current-year, the district has 1,439 students, but the state funds 1,347.5 students because kindergartners and preschoolers are only half-funded. The amount per pupil the district collected from the state was $7,173.28, but the district is forced to not spend $188,000 of that financing because of the likelihood the state will pull back about $133.21 per-pupil come January to help balance the state’s budget.

Mandated increases in employer contributions to PERA teacher retirement plans and increases in health insurance could cost the district about $220,000 – if there is a salary freeze.

Voters decided to not authorize a mill levy dedicating about $300,000 a year to technology for the next three years.

And because the Northwest Boards of Cooperative Educational Services – which assists districts in special education funding – had a $315,000 shortfall in its 2008-2009 budget, affecting its current year’s budget, the district will be forced to surrender $120,000 of incoming special education stimulus funds to backfill the shortfall.

Cutting $1 million per year is necessary, Karas said, and cuts may be “deep and painful.”

Last year, budget cuts amounted to $580,000, with 13 people losing positions.

“There’s no way to protect (staff and the community) from feeling these cuts,” Karas said.

District finance subcommittees made up of community members, faculty and high school students will be proposing the budget in various areas of district operations. Those subcommittees will then collectively decide on recommendations for the 2010-11 budget, Karas said.

Anyone interested in being a part of the district budget process should contact the district office at (970) 887-2581 before Dec. 8.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.