District 51 board looks at deep cuts

The School District 51 board has been presented a 2011-12 budget that includes $13.6 million in cuts and a reduction of the equivalent of 186.2 full-time jobs.

Cuts reviewed by the school board Tuesday evening include the elimination of 116 part-time reading instructional assistants, which is equivalent to 51 full-time positions; the equivalent of 29 full-time secretaries and non-instructional support workers; the equivalent of seven full-time building instructional support positions and 36.5 district-level support positions; and the equivalent of 52 full-time teachers, counselors and progress monitors, a number revised from an original estimate of 42 positions.

The district also plans to slice three positions by restructuring the School to Work and Career program, and eliminate 7.2 positions by closing the Valley East alternative high school program in Palisade and Glade Park School on Glade Park. Glade Park residents are trying to turn the school into a charter institution to keep it open this fall. Their charter application may be approved by the school board as soon as June 7, when the district accountability advisory committee will present to the board its comments and recommendation on the charter application.

Although some people will lose their jobs and have no other opportunity to work in the district, attrition will allow some employees to apply for a similar position in the district. Thirty-three District 51 teachers, counselors and other certified staff have been recommended for non-renewal based entirely on budget constraints. Five of those names were added to the list Tuesday night. Every person on that list is guaranteed an interview for another position in the district, but none of those people are guaranteed a job.

The budget will be adopted next month with more than $6 million in savings from job cuts. The rest of the savings will come from program cuts, administration changes and salary and benefit reductions.

Cutting three contract days in 2011-12 will save $1.875 million in salary and benefits and $133,000 in school bus costs. Most employees will take those days on Aug. 16, which was originally scheduled to be a teacher in-service day, and Nov. 21 and 22, which will be eliminated from the school year and allow students and staff to take an entire week off for Thanksgiving.

The district also plans to save $20,600 on salaries and benefits by reducing contracts scheduled for more days than usual and reduce substitute teacher pay by 5 percent to save $67,000.

Program cuts will include a $166,000 reduction in funding for middle and high school interventions, taking away a $25,000 contribution to a high school cosmetology education partnership, cutting $10,000 in funding for a middle school after-school program called Club Mid, cutting $875,000 in summer school funding and replacing some of it with grant dollars, eliminating $60,000 in support for community organizations, and discontinuing most Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing to save $98,000.

The district plans to save more money through fund transfers that would have otherwise gone to building maintenance, utility savings achieved through a district-wide energy efficiency upgrade project, and $263,100 in general fund reserve money. The district also plans to make 10 percent reductions to the budget of every school district building and in every district department. How those cuts will be made will be decided by each department and each school over the summer, according to District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita.

The district arrived at $13.6 million as the amount to cut based on a $6.9 million reduction in state funding, a $1.66 million anticipated reduction in specific ownership tax revenue, the disappearance of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding worth $1.22 million in 2010-11, a $900,000 required increase in the district’s contribution to Public Employees’ Retirement Association of Colorado benefits, a $1.7 million increase in the cost to provide medical insurance, a $1.458 million reduction in interest and revenue that had been previously expected, and a $1 million loss from the expected enrollment drop of 165 students, each worth $6,137 in revenue provided to the district by the state.

That tallies more than $13.6 million, but the district will get an additional $1.3 million from the Colorado Pre-school Fund.

Making each budget decision was difficult, Superintendent Steve Schultz said. He said the district tried to select cuts based on what cuts would not violate mandates and what items could be most easily reinstalled if funding returned.

“There’s not one thing we’ve cut that didn’t benefit students, and that makes this painful, but it’s the reality. It’s nobody’s fault,” Schultz said.

Board President Harry Butler said he feels for the people who will lose their jobs.

“Hopefully that can be restored someday,” he said.

While some are losing jobs, others will gain them next year. The school board approved two new job placements Tuesday. Mary Jones will replace retiring Executive Director of Middle Schools Deb Bailey next school year, and Janelle Keirns will become the principal of Fruita Monument High School. Jones and Keirns are both new to the district.

Jody Mimmack was principal of the high school until last December, and Fruita Monument Assistant Principal Lee Carleton has served as interim principal of the school since January. Mimmack will fill a new district position next year, executive director of instructional support.


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