More teachers, better pay in next year’s Re-1 budget
Increases in enrollment and per-pupil funding have allowed the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 to increase its general fund budget by $2.5 million for the 2014-2015 school year.
The district was already slated for an increase in state funding due to a projected 165 additional students. The state is also taking its first steps toward reversing the “negative factor,” a reinterpretation of Colorado Amendment 23 that has allowed the Legislature to bypass annual inflation adjustments. The 2009 measure was a response to declining tax revenues during the recession.
In 2013, Re-1 received 15.4 percent less in funding than it would have without the negative factor. But in 2014, an increase in funding of 5.6 percent per pupil will narrow the margin to 13.2 percent, resulting in an additional $700,000 for local schools.
The extra money will allow the district to hire 11 new teachers and provide part-time assistant principals at Sopris Elementary and Basalt Elementary. It will also help cover increases in cost for health insurance and contributions to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association of Colorado.
In the fall, existing faculty will receive a 1.8 percent cost-of-living pay raise, with another increase of anywhere from 0.5 percent to 2 percent slated for the middle of the school year.
Also in the budget is a $350,000 initiative to provide a Chromebook laptop for each fourth- through twelfth-grade student in Re-1. The computers will be phased in over a four-year period; 1,400 units are already in use after a rollout earlier this year.
Most of the money will come out of a contingency fund that was put aside by a 2011 mill levy increase, which is nearing the end of its five-year run, but the program will also benefit from a more flush general fund.
Assistant Superintendent Shannon Pelland called the extra money “the most significant increase in many years.”
Although she called it too soon to tell whether the trend will continue, she was glad to see at least one round of relatively normal budgeting after years of hard decisions.
“Things are finally going in the right direction again,” Pelland said.
The 2014-15 budget was approved by the Board of Education on Monday and should be available on the district’s website, rfsd.k12.co.us, in early July.
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