East Grand School district works to "buffer" reserves | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand School district works to "buffer" reserves

Tonya Bina
Grand County, CO Colorado

GRANBY – East Grand School District Board members have confirmed that $500,000 is the dollar amount needed from the community to meet the needs of next year’s projected $1.02 million funding shortfall.

Some $400,000 has been pledged to date between towns, the Grand Foundation, Winter Park Resort and the contribution Grand County anticipates from Forest Reserve funds. (Those negotiations have been set for March 8 at the Grand County Commissioner boardroom.)

Where $400,000 was tossed around as a possible community funding goal before, news of added state rescissions has caused the district to take a more conservative stance.

In doing so, the school board is preparing for up to 70 fewer students in the 2011-2012 school year, which could mean $440,489 less in sate funding to the district, not counting the loss of student fees associated with fewer students, according to budget paperwork passed out during a budget update at the Feb. 22 East Grand School District workshop.

In this scenario, with fewer enrolled students next year and less money from the state, district administrators are seeking to “create a buffer” with its $1.8 million available reserves, said Superintendent Nancy Karas.

Where the community’s $500,000 funding goal is a set figure to keep Fraser and Grand Lake elementary schools open in the 2011-2012 school year, the district’s present share of $522,803 could grow at the whim of state budget decisions, Karas explained: “It puts us at a greater risk.”

Karas distributed documents on possible budget reductions for the next fiscal year to maintain more of a buffer in the school district reserves, such as cuts in certified, classified and administrative positions and cuts in textbook adoptions, library books, technology and materials and supplies.

All in all, the net gain for these added cuts – which partially would offset other budget increases in utilities – would be $190,553, according to budget estimates.

The district board is also floating the idea of asking district employees to help cover health insurance increases in the total amount of $66,670 and teachers’ education compensation in the amount of $60,000.

The district board appeared split on possible cuts to teacher education steps, for example compensating someone for achieving a masters degree. Board Member Barbara Ahrens said yanking this salary benefit would be unfair to those who had worked toward it. Melissa Quinn agreed with Ahrens.

Joan Evans disagreed: “You can’t cut people’s jobs and give others raises in the same community,” she said.

In consideration of these in-house, one-time cuts, the district could aim to spend $280,000 (rather than $500,000) out of its reserves to keep schools open in the coming year, Karas said. That way, the district safeguards itself from the prospect of more budget hits coming down the pike, she said.

Cuts to athletics and activities or increased revenues through fees could save the district an additional $150,000, according to Athletic Director Brandon Thurston who serves on the athletics and activities committee of the District Accountability Committee. The committee is looking possibly to increase athletics fees to $90 per student, Thurston said, alleviating the sliding scale and family cap options and, for the first time, charging activities fees on electives such as band, choir and drama. More expensive sports may require higher fees, Thurston said.

Forming a committee

The East Grand School District Board has assigned members Tom Sifers, Barbara Ahrens and Melissa Quinn or Joan Evans to consider the formation of a special committee made up of citizens from the district, charged with researching sustainable funding solutions for district schools. The board members plan to meet prior to the March 1 district board meeting to discuss how such a committee could be formed fairly.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603

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