Garfield Re-2 school district estimates 3.25% funding increase per student
Garfield Re-2 District Chief Financial Officer David Trautenberg is “cautiously optimistic” that the district will have a bit more funding to work with for the next school year.
Gov. Jared Polis, who recently proposed $6.6 billion in total statewide funds for K-12 spending for fiscal year 2021-2022, is focused on getting the budget stabilization factor back down to “a very low level,” Trautenberg said. At its worst throughout the pandemic, the state’s stabilization factor, a formula created in the aftermath of the Great Recession that determines funding for K-12 education, was -17%.
Polis’ goal is to decrease the factor to -6.6%, a low that hasn’t been reached since fiscal year 2010-2011. The proposal would mark a 19% increase — or $810 million — from the 2020-2021 funding amount.
“If some aspect of this materializes, we’re going to get an increase of per-pupil funding,” he told the Re-2 school board on April 14.
If Polis’ proposal passes the legislature, that would increase the district’s current funding per pupil from $7,732 to $8,189. Trautenberg, however, in an effort to avoid being overly confident, is forecasting $7,984 per pupil for the next school year.
Truatenberg said the reason the estimation is $200 less is to plan for any possible funding revocations made by the state.
“The state can say, ‘Our revenue receipts are not as great; we need to take some money back,’” Trautenberg said. “So, it’s just a way to hedge a little bit.”
Trautenberg’s financial forecast would mark a 3.25% increase in funding per pupil.
In addition to the governor’s proposal, Trautenberg highlighted how state and federal funding sources have helped Re-2 mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. Based on these sources — this includes CARES Act, Coronavirus Relief Fund, Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund I, II and III (those funds have yet been released) — “recovery has accelerated,” Trautenberg said.
“We’re up almost over 12% in terms of the revenue increase…,” Trautenberg said. “We’re entering a much stronger economic landscape than we were a year ago.”
In addition, the inflationary rate is forecast at 2.5%.
There are, however, some rather critical unknowns when it comes to next fiscal year’s funding. Trautenberg said the district, which has decreased 4% due to the pandemic, doesn’t know what their pupil count will necessarily look like.
Student count is forecasted to bounce back by 1.5%. The K-12 student count in October 2020 was 4,596. In the 2019-2020 school year, the district had 4,802 students (October).
“What they are not promising is that they are going to fund you based on the 2019-2020 pupil count,” Truatenberg said.
The governor and legislature have agreed to 2019 funding levels but “anything could happen,” Trautenberg said. Meanwhile, the district will still have to keep an eye on tax receipts, property valuations, and if the budget stabilization factor actually holds.
“We’re not going to spend any money unless we know that we got it,” district spokesperson Theresa Hamilton told the Citizen Telegram on Tuesday.
In addition, insurance premiums, online learning and capital requirements will determine the district’s deficit spending.
“Now it’s time to see what do we do and recognize the good work that’s been done and move on to 2021-22 and hope that Covid is not an event,” Trautenberg said.
Truatenberg said the district will likely receive preliminary and proposed 2021-2022 budgets in May before adopting a budget in June.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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