Post Independent Opinion: Local input crucial to help ease pain of school budget cuts
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As area school districts face a dire budget situation for next school year, it’s critically important that the decisions on where to cut be made with as much community input, and understanding, as possible.
Colorado’s K-12 schools have managed to weather the recession so far with the aid of federal stimulus dollars on the state level, and as a result of healthy reserve funds and prudent budget decisions on the local level.
But a proposed statewide cut of $332 million from the K-12 state education budget for 2011-12, on average, will mean about a $500 per-pupil cut in funding for local schools.
As a result, the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt is anticipating $3.5 million in cuts. Likewise, Garfield Re-2 schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle are staring at about $2.5 million in cuts.
Local tax revenues are also likely to decrease for next year, as the 2011 property re-assessments will most likely result in lower property values, meaning even less revenues for schools in 2012.
All this comes after local districts already pared millions of dollars from their budgets for the current school year.
Those previous cuts were made with surgical precision. No teachers were laid off, as any staff reductions were handled through attrition, and programming cuts were kept to a minimum.
This time around, school districts have no choice but to look at teaching positions, classroom size and some cherished academic and extra-curricular programs.
It will not be an easy process. School districts are in a tough bind, and these are not cuts they would willingly or happily make.
But this is the path we must now follow, so local school districts need to know what’s important to residents.
Several opportunities will be offered in the coming weeks for parents and the general public to weigh in on these decisions.
The Re-1 school board will entertain public comments at three consecutive meetings, March 9, March 23 and April 13, from 6-8 p.m. The discussions will take place at the District Office in Glenwood Springs, and will be webcast from Carbondale Middle School and Basalt Elementary School. Public comments can be taken from the satellite sites as well.
For Re-2 residents, there is an online survey available regarding the budget, at http://www.garfieldre2.k12.co.us/.
We encourage parents, teachers, students and even those not directly associated with the schools to get involved in these important discussions.
Part of the difficulty for everyone involved is being forced to lower one’s expectations, at least for the short term.
It’s also helpful to avoid letting special interests get in the way of decisions that will ultimately affect all concerned. In the end, these decisions need to be viewed as “ours,” not “theirs.”
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The Forest Service plans to replace the Carbondale Aspen-Sopris ranger district station with a newer, larger facility.