Summit Schools prepare to slash budget
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit School District, like all public school systems across Colorado, is beginning the unsavory task of slashing its budget for the 2010-2011 school year, in the wake of flagging state funding.
“We’re continuing this very arduous and difficult task of figuring out how to operate next year with less revenue,” district superintendent Millie Hamner said.
The past several months have been full of assessing possible budget-reduction scenarios for Summit School District leaders, as the financial outlook from the state shifts almost on a daily basis. On the chopping block are dozens of items across all programs, schools and departments, including teacher positions, student athletics, staff planning and development time, field maintenance and health insurance.
Summit Schools expect to reduce next year’s education budget by anywhere from $810,000 to $1.3 million, relative to this year’s. The cuts will represent 4-7 percent of the district’s general fund. District officials won’t know the final number until Gov. Bill Ritter signs the School Finance Act in mid-May.
Colorado funds K-12 public education based on the rate of inflation. As of December 2009, the state reported the rate of inflation to be down by 6.12 percent. Statewide, the upcoming school year will see a reduction in per-pupil funding for the first time since the Colorado School Finance Act was first enacted in 1988.
“The newest information is a little worse than our worst-case scenario,” assistant superintendent Karen Strakbein said of the latest financial figures the district has from the state. “We’re not picking a number we have to solve to. We’re really just going to have to prioritize.”
District administrators and school principals have been meeting during the past few months to develop a menu of options for the upcoming cuts. The district will soon present the list to parents, teachers, support staff and other interested members of the community to solicit feedback. Based on that feedback, officials will prioritize the proposed cuts, preparing them for a range of financial outcomes.
District officials are weighing the possibility of asking local voters for funds that would compensate for funding decreases from the state. Even in the event of a successful November ballot question, though, such funds wouldn’t become available to the school district until January 2011.
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