$6 million could be cut from school budget

Staring down a potential budget shortfall of $8 million to $12 million or more in the 2010-11 school year, School District 51 created a list of $6 million in proposed budget reductions.

District 51 Budget Director Vi Crawford presented the list to school board members Thursday during a retreat. Board members will not vote on the changes one by one, but can voice opposition to them by not approving all or part of the district budget in June.

No staff or salary cuts are planned at this time, but the district predicts the loss of 10 full-time-equivalent staff members in elementary schools and 4 1/2 full-time-equivalent staff members in high schools before school begins this fall. The reductions would occur through attrition and, because student enrollment is down, the reduction would keep teacher-to-student ratios even with recent years.

In the hopes of getting more per-student funding from the state, high school students no longer will be allowed to attend school part-time in the first semester of the year, and R-5 High School may expand its enrollment capacity. There is a waiting list to attend the school.

High school students will see a change if they attend extended-learning classes this summer. In an attempt to save money on transportation, summer classes will be held at each high school instead of consolidating classes into one building.

The number of students taking Northwest Evaluation Association tests will be cut by one-third. The district pays a fee to the NWEA for each student that takes the test.

Teachers and administrators choosing to attend classes at Mesa State College to earn a master’s degree in education leadership will have to pay for the program themselves, as the district plans to cut tuition assistance for employees.

Teacher training will cost less because the process has been streamlined, according to district spokesman Jeff Kirtland, and less will be spent on training teachers in Palisade High’s International Baccalaureate program for at least a year because the teachers recently completed the training needed.

Some reductions are as simple as not budgeting for one-time purchases made during the 2009-10 school year. For example, the school district purchased a large number of calculators, Advanced Placement textbooks and materials for Dual Immersion Academy’s middle school this year, so they don’t have to buy more. The district updated textbooks in recent years.

The district plans to reorganize some areas to be more cost-efficient, such as the community partnership office, which deals with partnerships between the district and businesses, and the mentoring program for new teachers. Thinning administrative costs in middle schools, elementary schools, long-range planning and athletics is also part of the plan.

Some changes move items out of the general fund. Professional learning costs will be taken out in hopes Title I and special-education funding will pay for them.

In addition to operations changes, the district will address the budget crunch with an early-retirement-incentive program. So far, 86 people have signed up for the offer.

All of the above items cover the 2010-11 budget. More budget cuts may be needed for the current school year, Crawford said.

“The state might take an additional rescission this year if March (state revenue forecast) doesn’t look good,” she said.

The Legislature rescinded $3.3 million from in January.

Although the idea appears as a top choice in the results of a community survey about budget-reduction options, District 51 will not go to a four-day week in next year’s calendar. Superintendent Steve Schultz said it would take until at least fall 2011 to implement a four-day week, and the district is studying whether the idea would make much of a budget impact.

Regardless of how many days students go to school, they’d spend about the same amount of hours in school, he added. The state mandates how many hours, not days, students must spend in school each year.


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