Re-1 preps for budget cuts up to 10 percent
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – While other school districts around the state have begun to announce specific budget cuts for next fiscal year, the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 is awaiting the state of Colorado’s March 22 economic forecast before developing a final budget plan.
That’s when Re-1 will know if cuts will be in the 6.3 percent range, as earlier predicted in Gov. Bill Ritter’s budget plan, or closer to 10 percent, which school districts across the state have been advised to prepare for just in case.
“The implications of a 6 percent cut for our district are vastly different than a 10 percent cut,” Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Shannon Pelland said.
Pelland hosted an online “webcast” with Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt school teachers and staff on Monday to explain the latest budget scenarios and continue to gather input.
“We believe this approach is in the best interest of our staff and students because the range of possible cuts is so broad,” according to a statement put out to employees by the district’s Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) Salary and Budget Committee.
The goal continues to be to avoid staff layoffs and to preserve salaries and benefits, which can be accomplished given about $1 million in potential budget cuts that have already been identified, Pelland said.
Among the proposed cuts would be a 20 percent reduction in each of the building budgets for such things as supplies, materials and training, resulting in $158,200 in savings.
The district is also looking to postpone new curriculum adoption, saving another $250,000. Four vacant positions, including a half-time human resources specialist, building custodians in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, and a Med-prep teacher, would not be filled, saving $142,000.
Another $61,860 would be saved by eliminating the district’s summer school program.
However, if state education cuts reach the 10 percent range, staffing and/or salary reductions will be unavoidable, Pelland said.
Three possible budget scenarios are being considered at this point for Re-1 schools, including the 6.3 percent reduction level, a mid-range 7.75 percent reduction, and the 10 percent “worst-case” scenario.
At 6.3 percent, remaining budget cuts would not require any reduction in positions or salaries from current levels.
A 7.75 percent reduction would mean the district will need to find another $200,000 in budget cuts, equating to about six teaching or staff positions. That may be handled through natural attrition, Pelland explained.
At 10 percent, however, the situation is much more dire, including a possible reduction of 18 positions districtwide, plus a 1 percent across-the-board pay reduction. Other measures could include furlough days and even deeper pay cuts, Pelland said.
“If it does get to 10 percent, the next step would be to do some surveys with teachers to find out how they would approach cuts at that level,” she said. “We would also want to do some community surveys.”
While each school in the district would be given a staffing allotment for next school year based on enrollment, it would be up to individual schools how best to utilize that allotment, she said.
Even at 10 percent, it’s possible that staff reductions could be handled through attrition. Typically, Re-1 loses between 50 and 75 teachers every year. However, with the options for employment in other school districts limited, that number could be much lower this year, Pelland said.
“We’ve already had about 15 resignations and retirements announced so far this year,” Pelland said at the March 10 school board meeting. “But those positions aren’t necessarily in the right areas [when it comes to deciding where to cut].”
The other unknown that could result in even more of a reduction in state funding is enrollment. Already, the district has lost about 100 students since the official October enrollment count.
While the district typically sees some drop in enrollment throughout the school year, that number is a little higher than usual.
“We will have to watch that very closely through the end of the school year,” Pelland said.
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