School board in Parachute looks for members to face budget woes

Before it wades into difficult budget decisions following a failed tax vote, the Garfield County School District 16 Board of Education faces a more immediate task: figuring out who will be on the board to make those decisions.

No one ran for three seats on the school board in November’s election. As a result, the three incumbents are remaining on the five-person board to help appoint people to the seat. The appointees could include themselves.

“This is actually very unique statewide. We’ve had to seek legal counsel on several different occasions to try and help us through the process,” said Marilyn Mondragon, the district’s election official.

The district serves the Parachute/Battlement Mesa area.

Cheri Witt-Brown, David Higuera and Dora King had decided against seeking re-election to their seats. Mondragon said now, by state law, they remain on the board until a successor is either elected or qualified, which means being appointed and taking the oath of office.

The three could avoid remaining on the board by resigning, but none has. Mondragon said they also have expressed interest in continuing to serve on the board by being appointed, but none has submitted a letter of interest. However, three other people have, she said.

If the incumbents resigned and the board lacked a quorum, state law would allow School Board President Sarah Orona to fill vacancies after 60 days.

The district is accepting letters of interest for the seats through Nov. 28, and then will conduct interviews, Orona said.

She said if the three incumbents seek appointment, they could vote to appoint themselves if they want.

Orona said serving on the board doesn’t seem to be a priority for a lot of area residents.

“They have their own busy lives,” she said.

She thinks people’s new interest in serving is a result of the tax measure defeat and a desire to have a say in the tough budget decisions ahead.

“I think they realize the predicament we’re in because of the defeat of the mill levy, and now they’re going to be worried for the students,” Orona said.

The measure was aimed partly at offsetting state funding cuts by making teacher pay more competitive and replenishing other budgets, such as ones for activities and athletics. Now, Orona said, cuts to areas such as activities, personnel and transportation and even the closure of St. John Elementary School are possibilities.

“It’s going to be hard because we’re going to make huge, huge decisions,” she said.


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