District 51 must slash $5 million from budget

School District 51 will eliminate at least 42 positions next year, de-fund two schools and downsize or possibly eliminate summer education as part of a budget-cutting plan for 2011–12.

Superintendent Steve Schultz sent an email to all district staff Monday afternoon listing $4.947 million in proposed budget cuts. The list includes the elimination of 22.5 elementary teaching positions, 12 high school teaching or certified jobs and 7.5 middle school teaching or certified jobs. Certified positions include counselors, interventionists and other non-classroom teachers.

Eliminating those positions will save the district $2.184 million, according to District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita. Some teachers may lose their jobs and be able to accept another job in the district, DeVita said, as long as their skill set matches that of a teacher leaving the district.

“We anticipate to have 80 open teaching positions through retirements and other things. It just means 42 of them will not be backfilled,” she said.

Some jobs already have been pinpointed for elimination, while other principals are sorting out which jobs to cut, according to DeVita.

Another nine positions are likely to be eliminated next year as the district pares down its Curriculum and Instructional departments to save $568,000. Content specialists were hired or selected as teachers on special assignment a couple years ago to help the district align curriculum with new state standards. Now that the district is set to use that curriculum this fall, the specialists will be reassigned to helping implement the new standards or have their position eliminated.

Four more half-time positions in District 51 high schools will be eliminated when the School to Career program is eliminated and replaced by a statewide requirement that all students create a personal career and academic plan, something their counselors help them write. That change will save $220,000.

Two schools will be de-funded next year. Students at Valley School East will have to attend Valley School West at the Western Colorado Community College campus or transfer to another school when the district cuts Valley School East’s $210,000 budget. DeVita said the district decided to keep West and not East because West is more centrally located.

In addition, the district will stop paying $110,000 for operations at Glade Park School. Karyn Bechtel, president of On the Park, an advocacy group for the school, said Monday she preferred not to comment about the future of the school until she heard more about the funding cut from the district. DeVita said the school was picked because it has a small student population that can be served at other schools.

The district is relying on grants to save the summer extended learning program and eliminate $800,000 in funding for summer classes. The district secured two grants that will fund summer learning at Clifton Elementary and Mount Garfield Middle School, but those grants would only pay for students of those schools to attend summer classes. The district is relying on Title I grants and $150,000 from the district budget to fund summer learning at other local elementary schools.

“If Title I doesn’t come through, then we will not have extended learning this summer,” DeVita said.

Even if the grants are secured, something the district should learn next week, Mount Garfield students will be the only middle schoolers able to attend summer classes and there would be no summer extended learning for high school students.

More cuts proposed for next school year include:

A $625,000 reduction in utility expenses. The district contracted with TRANE to complete numerous energy efficiency projects across the district and is paying the company with expected energy savings resulting from the projects. The $625,000 amount equals savings over the expected amount used to pay TRANE.

An athletic fee increase from $70 to $110 at the high school level and from $30 to $50 at the middle school level to generate $112,000. No family will pay more than $440 for all their children’s sports.

Elimination of the $100,000 school resource officer contribution made in each of the past two budget cycles to local law enforcement. The Grand Junction Police Department and Mesa County Sheriff’s Department have confirmed they do not plan to reduce the number of resource officers they’ll put in schools next year.

An $18,000 reduction of funds that would have been spent on lobbying as part of a coalition of Colorado school districts.

District officials expect to cut another $5 million by the time the 2011–12 budget is adopted in June. Those cuts will be announced by the end of May, according to DeVita.

The district isn’t sure exactly how much it has to cut, but if a plan to reduce education funding by $250 million statewide for 2011–12 is approved by the state legislature, the district will have to reduce its budget by $7.2 million. On top of that, the district will lose $1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and have to pay $900,000 more in PERA benefits next year.

The district also will lose more than $6,000 in state funding for every student who leaves the district next year. With more jobs popping up elsewhere and the local unemployment rate still in double digits, Schultz said he predicts the district will have a net loss of at least 165 students this fall.

The district lost 1 percent of its student population over the past three years, according to Schultz.


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