District 51 braces for cuts across the board

District 51 School Board members Diann Rice and Leslie Kiesler heard one message repeatedly from state legislators and officials during a trip to the Capitol last week: Budget cuts are coming to education, but lawmakers are doing everything they can to lessen their severity.

Superintendent Steve Schultz said that pledge gives him hope.

“I find that, in the darkness, a little ray of sunshine,” he said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

That “darkness,” though, includes a proposed $9.2 million cut in state funding next year, according to a plan announced last month by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Expected decreases in stimulus dollars and enrollment combined with a required increase in contributions to employee’s retirement funds would mean the district would cut $12.1 million next year.

Those cuts will almost have to come from a variety of sources, including those that affect schools, according to Melissa Callahan DeVita, District 51 executive director of support services. Cuts close to what are needed could be found by eliminating business and instructional support services, general administration and central services, DeVita said, but that would leave no one to administer Colorado State Assessment Plan tests, which is illegal, and no one to manage payroll or hire people.

“It’s just not possible for it to fall in this quadrant. To find $12 million, it has to come from across the board,” DeVita said.

Reductions for the current school year were made in all but three of the nine spending categories for the district’s general fund when the district cut 10.9 million. Spending increased for transportation, maintenance and pupil services in 2010-11 compared to 2009-10.

“We can’t do it alone,” Schultz said of district officials determining what areas to cut. “We need to talk to local entities and look at ways to economize.”


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