Heil: School budget is a moving target
May 17, 2011
Since April 27, I have attended four meetings and/or conferences that have prompted my need to write this letter to the communities of Grand County – The meetings I attended were:
• A webinar on Colorado’s Fiscal Needs sponsored by the Fiscal Education Network of the Colorado Non Profit Association;
• The Ad Hoc meeting of Grand County community funders – charged with evaluating and possibly recommending to the East Grand School District school board a sustainable funding plan for education in Grand County;
• A day-long conference sponsored by Great Futures/Great Education Colorado and;
• The May 2 EGSD school board meeting.
For those community members who have attended numerous meetings over the past six months, I believe it has become clear that: School funding in Colorado is complex. Leading to a better understanding by these same concerned citizens that the way a school district has to plan and budget is truly “a moving target” – not knowing from one month to the next if the state is going to send out a memorandum stating “we have found more money for education” or “be prepared a mid year rescission is coming” What was projected in November can be better or worse come the following April.
What I am seeing is that there is a disconnect – one that I have really come to notice over the last week or so – Let me be simple and clear:
The school budget problem is a STATE problem – not isolated to our county, the front range or the Eastern plains. If the problem exists at the state level it therefore needs to be resolved at the state level.
The math is really quite basic: Currently in Colorado, the cost to maintain public services exceed the revenues to pay for them. Colorado has grown but revenues haven’t kept pace.
Since 2001: Population growth: 800,000 more Coloradans. K-12 growth: 70,000 more students in K-12. Higher Ed growth: 35,000 more college students. Medicaid: 150,000 more Medicaid recipients. Prisons: 2,500 more prisoners.
The costs of mandated, necessary and/or politically popular services and infrastructure exceed state revenues. According to the DU Center for Colorado’s Economic Future, the gap between expenses and revenues won’t change significantly when the economy recovers. “Colorado cannot expect to grow its way out of its budget problems … the state budget faces a persistent structural imbalance…”
Overall, Colorado’s formulas, balanced budget requirement, prohibition of raising taxes, and the recession have created a budget crisis that defies easy solutions. Stagnant revenue combined with increasing demand for services is squeezing all services – public education, health care, human services.
So … Colorado Voters must be leaders. Colorado voters must decide how much to fund the services and infrastructure that are vital to our communities and our quality of life. Because of this responsibility, Colorado voters have a duty to make choices about how to balance low taxes and maintain public services
We need to continue the conversation, continue the discussion and more importantly continue educating ourselves about the issue and the realistic methods available to us to help solve the problems we, as a state, are facing.
This is a leadership challenge for all Coloradans.
President, Grand Lake Community PTA