Defeat of override measure no shock to De Beque’s school superintendent

De Beque Superintendent Steve Strong said he wasn’t surprised Referred Measure 3A failed by a 13-vote margin in the Nov. 1 election.

The district decided to attempt the override, which would have gathered $350,000 in property taxes a year for six years to maintain and improve De Beque’s kindergarten through 12th-grade school, to see if it was possible, Strong said, not because the community asked for it.

“I was looking at it as if it did pass, it would help us. And if it failed, we’d have to look at some options,” Strong said.

Strong said he expects to gather with school board members after Christmas to discuss those options, which may include cuts to programs. Strong said he isn’t sure how a proposed $89 million in state funding cuts to kindergarten through 12th-grade education may impact his district next year, but he wants to prepare if enrollment declines for a fourth consecutive year.

Despite having about 16 fewer students than last fall,  De Beque School District 49-JT received more money from the state funding formula this year because the money it receives per student increased year-over-year in 2011–12. The district has experienced a funding decline compared with 2009–10, though, and has trimmed its sole principal, updated textbooks and other items from its budget.

Strong said he wants to correct rumors that the school may cut off its secondary grades. He worries that rumor may scare even more students away.

“We’ll keep the high school open. We’ll get creative,” Strong said.

Strong said he believes in offering all grades in the town so parents do not have to split up their children and send them to different districts after elementary school.

“The community revolves around our school. I think that’s important to have,” he said.

Before tackling budget talks, De Beque School Board members will focus on appointing a fifth member to their group. Two board members decided not to run for re-election in November and only one person, Rod Graham, decided to run for school board. Graham was sworn in Wednesday.

The board is accepting letters now from people who want to be appointed to the board. The board will interview those who submit letters and may pick a new member by the end of the month, according to Strong.

Candidates have to live within De Beque district boundaries to be considered. Strong said no one has mailed a letter of intent to join yet, but the board hopes to swear in a new member at its Nov. 30 meeting.


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