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Garfield Re-2 begins budget discussion

As the district continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, talks begin what next year will look like

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With the decision made last week to end in-person learning for the 2019-20 school year, discussions began during Tuesday night’s school board meeting about what the 2020-21 school year will look like and what the budget scenarios will be for the district.

During a presentation Interim Chief Financial Officer David Trautenberg said with the state’s budgeting uncertainties and how it will impact Garfield Re-2 funding, the district will not begin to know the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic until May 12.

Like many school districts across the state of Colorado Re-2 is waiting for the Legislative Council and Office of State Planning and Budgeting to release the scenarios on what they expect for revenue forecast funding for the state.

It is also expected that the Joint Budgeting Committee will present the Long Bill, School Finance Act, and any budget-related bills by the end of May.

Trautenberg said with those numbers it would help the district model their numbers for next year’s budget.

“It’s like throwing a pebble in the middle of a pond or lake, the impact of this is going to reverberate through the years. This is going to be an ongoing negative drain of funding over a multi-year time horizon, and it is important to remember the use of unassigned general fund money is always a one-time use of funds,” Trautenberg said.

The best-case scenario for the 2020-21 school year that Re-2 has been modeling is assuming there will be a 10% funding decrease, putting the funding down $4-5 million.

“We are going to take a hit, but it’s not catastrophic,” Trautenberg said.

The district is also in discussions about what the 2020-21 school year instructional and learning infrastructure will look like whether it will be virtual, a hybrid or back to school as normal.

“The biggest lesson for us now is that we have to be fluid and flexible, we don’t know what is going to come down, what we are opening to in the fall or the requirements are going to be,” Re-2 School Board President Anne Guettler said.

Guettler said because Garfield Re-2 receives a majority of its funding from the state and not local effort this could have dire long-term consequences.

“It’s clear to me that the new mantra should be budget conservation. This isn’t conservative budgeting, this means budget conservation,” Trautenberg said.

Currently 80% of Garfield Re-2 general fund budget is spent around salaries, benefits, and Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association contributions..

Trautenberg said the district has sufficient financial reserves to mitigate impacts of COVID-19 funding scenarios provided that the districts adhere to budget conservation, revenue minus expenses have to be greater than or equal to zero, and limited funding of multi-year expenses with one-time revenue.

“We have to look at the positives here, we are well positioned to weather this impact, but we just have to be smart,” Trautenberg said.

The district will hold a workshop Tuesday to talk more about the budget.

GRADUATIONS SET FOR NOW

Coal Ridge High School and Rifle High School have set plans in motion for graduation events to take place around the original dates of schedules commencement ceremonies.

Coal Ridge just completed shooting videos and photos for a virtual graduation that they hope to distribute around May 17 pending completion of virtual production.

“It was quite an impressive site that they set up for the seniors, even though it was a graduation of one child at a time,” Superintendent Heather Grumley said.

Rifle High school is planning a parade to honor the senior class of 2020 on May 16.

NEW SUPERINTENDENT APPROVED

During Tuesday’s meeting the board unanimously approved Heather Grumley as the new superintendent, contingent on approval of a contract.

The board plans to formalize and approve Grumley’s contract at the next school board meeting.

“There is no better team around me to get through all of this, as a day by day, step by step process, I am grateful to be working for Re-2,” Grumley said.

“Our staff, kids, community and board are worth whatever it takes, we keep going. Thank you, it is an honor.”

kmills@postindependent.com


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