Keep funds in reserve, state tells schools

What the state giveth, the state may take away from School District 51.

Legislators altered the school finance act in the final days of the 2009 session to require every Colorado school district to set aside a portion of its state funding, which comes from a pile of local and state tax dollars, each month. Districts will place the assigned portion of money — $132 per student for District 51 — in fiscal emergency reserves beginning this fall.

Legislators have until Jan. 29 to pass a bill that would make districts give the reserve money back to the state in the case of a budgeting crisis. Districts can keep the money if the deadline passes and no bill has been approved. With more funding problems expected in years to come, though, District 51 will probably sit on that set-aside cash, said Melissa Callahan DeVita, support services executive director.

“We expect to have funding problems in the next two years,” she said, citing the expiration of Amendment 23 for the 2011-2012 school year. The amendment increased school funding by 1 percent year-over-year. Referendum C, approved in 2005, gave Colorado a five-year reprieve from TABOR spending limits. 

District 51, which has not formally adopted the 2009-2010 budget, plans to budget for zero percent growth and have a total of $264 million from a combination of budgets.

District 51 expects to get $6,414 per student from the state education fund next school year.

Some other developments resulting from Tuesday’s school board meeting include:

• The 2009-2010 school year will include two extra school days from District 51 students.

• Palisade Town Administrator Tim Sarmo updated the board on the town’s progress renovating the old Palisade High School. Tentative plans for the building would make room for a library branch in the building’s east wing, a break room in an addition built in 1969, town administration offices on the second floor, and town board chambers and a municipal courtroom, gym and police station on the first floor.

• The board approved an agreement between the district and Mesa State College to pay for Grand Junction High School’s new track. The college pledged nearly $1 million for the project.

• Assistant Superintendent Steve Schultz’ contract to become superintendent July 1 was approved unanimously by the board. Schultz is expected to sign the contract this morning.


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