Mill levy, bond issue goes before voters in Parachute, Battlement Mesa |

Mill levy, bond issue goes before voters in Parachute, Battlement Mesa

Mike McKibbin
Citizen Telegram Editor

New hires in District 16

While funding concerns caused Garfield County School District 16 to decide to seek voter approval of a mill levy override and bond issue in November, the district recently made the following new hires:

Sean Taylor, previous employer was Mesa County School District 51, where he was the director of assessment. His title with District 16 will be director of student achievement.

Brad Ray, previous employer was Garfield School District Re-2, where he was the assistant superintendent. His position with District 16 will be principal of Bea Underwood Elementary School.

Meri Hofzinger, previous employer was Mesa County School District 51, where she was the principal of Lincoln Orchard Mesa Elementary School. Her position with District 16 will be the principal of the Grand Valley Center for Family Learning.

PARACHUTE/BATTLEMENT MESA – Voters in Garfield County School District 16 will be asked to approve a mill levy override and bond issue this fall to replace millions of dollars lost due to declining enrollments and state budget cuts over the last several years.

The exact dollar figures for both won’t be known until a capital project assessment is completed by the end of July, said district Finance Director Rose Belden.

A tentative July 26 steering committee meeting would gather input from the Parachute and Battlement Mesa communities as well, she added.

Belden said the school board adopted a 2014-15 budget that calls for a $10 million general fund and spending of $407,000 in district reserves for the third year in a row.

“So our reserve fund will go from $3.4 million three years ago to $2.4 million by the end of the fiscal year,” Belden added. “That’s why we need to pass a mill levy override and bond issue. We can’t continue to live off our reserves.”

The district also, for the fourth year in a row, did not give teachers or staff any raises, Belden said.

The state of Colorado cut its funding to the district by $4.8 million in the last four years, Belden said in April. In that same time, enrollment dropped by about 380 students and the combination of declines in revenue and enrollment led the district to reduce staff by 30 to 35 percent. The district also went to a four-day school week last school year and will drop one sports program next fall.

In the 2008-09 school year, the district employed 206 people, including 92 certified teachers, Belden said. This past school year, 164 people were employed, including 70 certified teachers. Over that same time, the district’s enrollment dropped from 1,419 students to 1,050 this year, Belden added.

Around 90 percent of the district’s property tax revenue comes from the natural gas industry, she pointed out, an industry that has sharply cut activity in the district over the same time period.

To prepare for the possibility of voters turning down the measures in the November general election, Belden said the district will work this summer on a three-phase plan to adjust to less funding.

“We’re really between a rock and a hard place, because we want to attract the best teachers,” she stated. “But if we continue to lose students, those teachers will see we’re having funding trouble and they won’t want to come here or stay here.”

While the state legislature adjusted the school funding formula to send an extra $240,000 to District 16 this year, Belden said the district is still receiving just $1.1 million from the state, compared to $1.3 million a few years ago.

So the ‘negative factor’ [the loss of state funds over several years] is really still continuing,” she added. “And the funds they do give us usually have strings attached. When we had to cut our spending because of budget cuts, they didn’t tell us where to cut, so why should they say where we can spend the new money?”

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