New board tackles Parachute schools budget

Three new members have been appointed to the Garfield County School District 16 school board, which now will consider budgetary measures that could range anywhere from closing a school to again asking voters to pass a tax increase.

The district serves the Parachute/Battlement Mesa area. Megan Alstatt, Michelle Bargas and Dr. Kevin Coleman were appointed by the board after no one ran last fall for the three seats.

Six people had applied for the vacancies and were interviewed by the board.

Superintendent Ken Haptonstall said the district is trying to schedule an all-day board retreat to familiarize the new members with the district’s budget situation and future options. Then it can proceed with discussions involving the community about how to proceed.

The district made previous budget cuts but hoped to improve its financial situation with a $4.8 million mill levy override that voters defeated in the fall. That measure also was seen as a means of avoiding possibly having to close St. John Elementary School.

Haptonstall said while closing the school will be an option for the board to consider, “the only thing is, we don’t save a tremendous amount of money.”

He said the district already shares a lot of staff between that school and Bea Underwood Elementary School, so there wouldn’t be much reduction in staffing expenses. Rather, savings generally would involve utilities and some maintenance, and might total $150,000 a year.

The district then would incur additional costs to probably reopen the school later when population changes in the district require it, Haptonstall said.

He said considering another tax measure is another option. Last year’s measure was expected to have cost homeowners $27 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home. However, he said it turns out it would have only cost $19 or $20, due to an increase in the district’s assessed valuation.

Thanks to an increase in assessed value for the oil and gas industry, the district’s assessed valuation rose 24 percent to $1.38 billion. The district’s mill levy has fallen and is now 6.602, one of the lowest in the state for school districts.

Even before the change in assessed value, the district was projecting that had the last tax measure passed, 94 percent of it would have been paid by oil and gas companies.

Meanwhile, Haptonstall said an effort by local pastor Rick Van Vleet to have people donate what they would have paid had the tax measure passed has raised more than $700 for the district.


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