Legislators move to take back K-12 money

District 51 may have to return $550K

State senators made a long-expected vote Tuesday to rescind 2.31 percent of each Colorado school district’s budget for 2009-10.

The fate of the rescission now lies in the hands of the House of Representatives, which will vote on the issue today.

Each Colorado school district held 1.93 percent of their budget for this school year in a Fiscal Emergency Reserve fund this year. Legislators had until Jan. 29 to decide whether school districts could spend the money or would have to return it to state coffers.

When the Legislature returned to session last week, it was decided the rescission amount would increase by 0.38 percent. That added $550,000 to the $2.78 million School District 51 had saved in its fiscal emergency reserves.

District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita said Tuesday the district never budgeted the $2.78 million, but will have to decide where to cut the $550,000 if the House votes for the rescission as well.

“It’s hard to lose revenue mid-stream. It’s easier for me to know (about cuts) before a fiscal year. But we’ll figure it out,” DeVita said.

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, voted along with all but two senators for the rescission.

“It was money that never should have been allocated in the first place given the state of the budget,” Penry said.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said he also learned Tuesday that K-12 education could lose another $130 to $140 million statewide in 2010-11 if legislators do not approve of cutting a list of tax credits Gov. Bill Ritter suggested for the chopping block.

“The word we’ve heard is if the credits aren’t cut, the money will probably come from K-12 education,” Schultz said.

Schultz said “there is no place else for the state to go except K-12” to find money. But students and teachers may need to prepare for the cuts to change life in 2010-11.

“There will be school in the fall, but it will be different, because $8 to $12 million is a significant piece,” Schultz said, quoting the figure that may be cut by the state from next year’s District 51 budget.

School Board member Leslie Kiesler said the district is better off than some in the state. She learned at an education meeting last week on the Front Range that school districts in Fort Collins, Greeley, and Jefferson County all plan to close schools.


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