Home > News Articles > State cuts mean fewer teachers, textbooks in area schools – from the Gazette

State cuts mean fewer teachers, textbooks in area schools – from the Gazette

April 29, 2010
April 24, 2010 6:17 PM
SUE McMILLIN and CAROL McGRAW
THE GAZETTE

The initial toll of state cuts to public schools in the Pikes Peak region includes cutting 250 jobs, closing two schools, eliminating some summer school programs, reducing money for books and classroom supplies, increasing student fees, and implementing pay freezes.

The full impact won’t be known until all the state numbers and funding formulas are finalized and the districts adopt their budgets in June for the 2010-11 fiscal year. The Colorado School Finance Act is expected to cut school funding by 6.3 percent to each district.

Officials at most area districts said they’re pretty sure of their target cut numbers, although enrollment changes will have an impact. Many have been trimming for more than a year, including leaving some vacant positions unfilled. They’re also bracing for cuts next year because of unresolved state funding issues.

“The fiscal fix is not coming at the state level in the near future,” said Walt Cooper, superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District 12. “For sustainability we’re going to have to have another mill levy override.”

Cooper said the district won’t go to voters this year but that D-12 might seek more local funding in November 2011. The district’s online surveys have indicated support for a tax increase to preserve some programs.

Other districts also have sought staff and public input on budget decisions throughout the year. Many have posted extensive information on their websites, including results of surveys and public comment sessions.

Much of what districts do in the long run, however, will depend on the outcome of three statewide ballot measures this year that school officials say could be catastrophic for public schools.

Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 together would roll back property taxes, lower the state income tax rate and abolish most fees and taxes related to motor vehicles and telecommunications devices.

While they have their eyes on potential future budget woes, district leaders say they’ve worked to keep this year’s trims as far from the classroom as possible.

That doesn’t mean teachers have avoided the ax.

Falcon School District 49, Cripple Creek School-Victor School District RE-1, Widefield School District 3 and D-12 are cutting teachers.

And in some cases, declining enrollment and recent consolidations of schools or grades has allowed districts to trim positions. District officials hope that most staff cuts can be handled through attrition due to retirements and resignations, for example.

That can be tough in smaller districts. Cripple Creek Superintendent Sue Holmes posted a message on the district’s website about budget cuts and said only one of the three eliminated  positions will be due to attrition. The other two teachers were told in March that their jobs would be gone so they’d have time to find work elsewhere.

Two executives in Manitou Springs School District 14 got similar notice when the district decided to cut their jobs to save $200,000 in pay and benefits, said Tim Miller, assistant superintendent for business services.

The district avoided other cuts but has a pay freeze, Miller said. Other districts that have a freeze include Falcon, Cheyenne Mountain and Widefield.

Districts also know that they must pay more into the Public Employees Retirement Association to keep it solvent. PERA funds have taken significant losses in the current recession.

Even those districts that are in better shape, such as Academy School District 20, are looking hard at salaries.

“We’re trying to do a cost-of-living increase, but it will be small,” said Tom Gregory, D-20 fiscal officer. He also  said it’s unlikely that teachers will get step increases that are paid for years of service. Cuts in D-20 have been blunted by enrollment growth and the passage in November 2008 of a mill levy override.

In the area’s largest district, Colorado Springs School District 11, negotiations with teachers and staff are ongoing, and pay decisions have not been made.

The key word with raises or any other expenditure these days is caution.

“When we come back in the fall, we will have to look at enrollment trends and what the state will be doing budgetwise,” said Joe Royer, assistant superintendent in Widefield.

His own position is a case in point. He’ll move into the superintendent’s job this summer when Stan Richardson retires. His old job won’t be filled, and the elimination of that position and five administrative support positions will save the district about $300,000, he said.

Manitou’s Miller agreed that all the unknowns in the state’s finances and issues that voters will decide make it risky to offer pay raises or make significant purchases.

“There’s just too many uncertainties between now and November,” he said.

About the only district that appears to be weathering the budget storm unscathed is tiny Edison School District 54 JT. Outgoing Superintendent Dave Grosche said he expects last year’s $3.2 million budget to increase to about $3.5 million because of enrollment growth in its online academy.

“In times of trouble, you can cut back or expand. We are going to expand,” said Grosche, who will become part-time principal of the burgeoning online academy, which is authorized to accept students from throughout the state — and the per pupil revenue that comes with them. “We may even be able to buy a couple of used buses.”


PENDING CUTS

ACADEMY SCHOOL DISTRICT 20
State cut: $8 million from $190 million budget.
Details: Offset by enrollment growth and mill levy override, so the district will cut about $3 million from its budget. May cut five positions from central administration or auxiliary departments, two of which are vacant. Other smaller cuts to administration and board budgets.

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN SCHOOL DISTRICT 12
State cut: $1.4 million from $30 million budget.
Details: Eliminating about 12 jobs, including one high school dean, 4.2 elementary Spanish teacher positions because the program is being cut, and 15 part-time coaching positions. Eliminating elementary summer school and reducing textbook expenditures and support staff overtime.

FALCON SCHOOL DISTRICT 49State cut: $7.5 million from $98 million budget.
Details: Eliminating about 90 positions, starting a salary freeze.

HARRISON SCHOOL DISTRICT 2State cut: $4.5 million less from state; $80 million budget.
Details: Cuts not expected this year because of previous staff reductions; implementing a pay for performance plan and anticipating 3 percent pay increase for support staff.

LEWIS-PALMER SCHOOL DISTRICT 38
State cut: $3 million from $39 million budget.
Details: Closing Grace Best Elementary School, realigning other schools and eliminating more than 50 positions, including teachers and support staff.

Source: Gazette research
(Portions of the PENDING CUTS section were cut from this post for space purposes – please link to original article to see budget cut information on all area Districts.)

Click here to view original article, comments, or to contact the reporters of this article.

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