Eagle County schools shed 48 jobs, $5M
EAGLE, Colorado – After months of hand-wringing and wrangling, the school board Wednesday night settled on cutting $5 million and 48 positions out of next year’s budget.That $5 million cut comes on the heels of a $4 million cut last year, said Phil Onofrio, the school district’s chief financial officer.Slashing 48 positions will save $2,095,000 in salaries and benefits next year. That’s 20 support staff at the district level, and 28 teachers.The rest of the $5 million will come from belt-tightening across the district, things like hanging onto computers for an extra year or two and putting off buying new buses.”Virtually all of this $5 million cut is from the general fund. That’s a $52 million fund. It would be nice to be able to say it came from a $100 million budget, but it’s not,” Onofrio said.Class sizes will grow a little, said Dr. Sandra Smyser, superintendent of the Eagle County school district. Some summer programs and after-hours programs are being cut.Depending on how many kids show up next fall, those cuts will look like this:• Elementary school classrooms will increase from 19.4 to 20.9 kids.• Middle school will increase from 20.9 to 26.2 kids• High school classes will increase from 28.9 to 32.8 kids”I think it’s remarkable that we’ve been able to get by this far without affecting student achievement,” Onofrio said.Schools are funded through a combination of property taxes, vehicle taxes and state funding.State funding is down 13 percent over the last three years, Onofrio said. State lawmakers cut per pupil funding to $6,741, from more than $7,000 in this year’s legislative session.The school district employs 900 people, or used to – 520 teachers and 380 administration and support staff, said Brian Childress, school district human resources director.Tax increase still on the tableThe school board might ask voters for a $6.7 million annual property tax increase. That’s $20.97 for every $100,000 of your home’s assessed value.In a letter to the community, the school district reasoned that the tax increase would be less than the tax reduction most property owners will enjoy because of falling property values.That money would stay in Eagle County, and not be funneled through the state government, as other school funds are now, the district said in its letter.The school board has to decide by August whether to put it on the ballot. Voters would decide its fate in November.Under Colorado’s TABOR Amendment, the school district cannot increase taxes without voters’ permission.Colorado’s kindergarten-12 education consumes 42 percent of the state’s general fund. In the state’s $1 billion budget shortfall this year, education took a hit along with everything email@example.com.
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