Budget cuts would nick School District 51 by $9.2 million

The $375 million cut to K–12 education proposed Tuesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper would amount to a loss of $9.2 million next school year in School District 51.

Add the million-dollar increase in the school district’s contribution to PERA next year and the elimination of another $1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, and the tally increases to $11.2 million. That number could increase by another million dollars if the district loses 165 students this fall, a number projected by a demographer hired by the district.

The cuts would come on top of a $10.5 million cut from the current school year’s budget. This year’s cuts trimmed around instruction and left building budgets and salaries mostly unscathed. District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz isn’t sure that will happen again next year.

“There’s no way decisions aren’t going to have an impact on staff, the community or students,” Schultz said, adding his priority is to keep the cuts from affecting students as much as possible.

Jim Smyth, who represents local teachers as president of the Mesa Valley Education Association, said so much of the district’s budget, 87 percent, focuses on instruction, salaries and benefits that “there’s no way we can get around touching salaries and benefits.”

Smyth said Tuesday’s numbers are preliminary, and contract negotiations are three months away, but he acknowledged the news from the Capitol is “scary.”

“I’m not saying these cuts would come from personnel, but it’s a high likelihood that somewhere jobs will be affected, and classrooms will be affected,” he said.

District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita said the cuts were not entirely unexpected, but $9.2 million is “at the high end of what we were looking at.” Schultz said District 51 now has a narrower range for planning next year’s budget and a clearer starting place to consider cuts and hear suggestions from district employees.

“The challenge is that’s the proposal ($9.2 million). It still has to run the gauntlet of the Legislature,” Schultz said. “The number could go higher. It could also go lower.”


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