Re-2 school board supports dip into savings for 2011-12 |

Re-2 school board supports dip into savings for 2011-12

John Gardner
Rifle Correspondent
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Garfield Re-2 School Board supported recommendations from the district administration to spend down about $2.5 million from the district’s fund balance to cover part of the anticipated $3.3 million in cuts necessary for the 2011-2012 school year.

The district will also consider proposing a mill levy override to voters in November to cover continued revenue losses.

Garfield Re-2 superintendent Susan Birdsey laid out a multi-phase plan for budget cuts in a school board meeting last week. She said imposing cuts in phases, while using the district’s fund balance to delay other cuts, will give the district time to decide on further cuts if voters do not approve a mill levy override.

School board president Jay Rickstrew said he favored the combined approach of making some cuts while drawing on reserve funds.

“We’ve built up a rainy-day fund and it’s pouring outside at the moment, so we need to use some of that,” Rickstrew said.

Other board members disagreed, urging the district to start cutting costs in areas that make sense now. They still supported the idea of using some reserve funds.

“I think we should deficit-spend,” said board member Lee Krauth, referring to the practice of drawing from fund reserves. “But I don’t think we should have phase one, two, or three. Let’s just start phasing in different things as we go,” he said.

The district, which governs schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, anticipates revenues of about $36.5 million for the 2011-2012 school year, with expenses of about $38.3 million.

Administrators say a best-case scenario will leave the district with a deficit of about $2.9 million or a worst-case scenario of about $3.3 million.

The district has already identified $753,000 in cuts for next year. These include reduced payments to the Mountain Board of Cooperative Educational Services for specialty services, leaving the assistant superintendent’s post vacant, and reducing elementary school faculty by four teachers districtwide.

That level of cutting will still require the district to draw down its reserves by about $2.5 million, while pursuing a ballot question for a mill levy override.

“I think that what we have to do is go to the community on how to proceed and if they support a mill levy or not,” Birdsey said. “We have to give them a voice and give them a chance to make that decision.”

If voters do not approve a mill levy override, the district will have to implement additional cuts for the 2012-13 school year, and could face further budget reductions from the state. That could mean increasing class sizes districtwide at the elementary level, elimination of some after school programs, staff furlough days, and the possible closure of two elementary schools.

The Re-2 budget will continue to be revised and evaluated until final board approval at the end of June.

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