Teacher pay, bond issue ‘on the table’ as District 51 looks at budget

School District 51 has some intricate cutting to do to balance the 2010–11 budget.

The cutting process will look more like a shave if all goes as planned, according to Superintendent Steve Schultz.

“We may shrink some things, but we want to do our best not to eliminate programs because it could take 20 years to bring them back,” Schultz said.

Schultz isn’t sure how much of a $260 million statewide cut to education proposed Friday by Gov. Bill Ritter will have to be absorbed by the school district. District 51 could handle up to $8 million in cuts, Schultz predicted, but any higher and there will be “a serious impact to students,” he said.

Schultz already has eliminated the assistant superintendent position and notes that teachers are paid only for the 176 days they spend in a school, making it even harder for him to find slack in salaries. He will speak with representatives of the Mesa Valley Education Association later this month. The possibility of teacher and staff pay decreases will be discussed.

“Everything is on the table,” Schultz said.

That includes another bond issue — this time to help the district pay operating costs. School Board President Leslie Kiesler said she would “love to” pass a bond to help keep programs and pay intact, but isn’t sure whether now is the right time, given the area’s economic circumstance. Unemployment is 8.5 percent, which is higher than any other metropolitan area in Colorado, and the district has seen a 6 percent increase in the number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals at school.

“Morally and economically, I don’t know if it would be the right thing to do,” Kiesler said.

Schultz said the district would watch economic trends into the spring to see if a bond issue is something to seriously consider.

Regardless, he said, “I’m confident we’ll navigate through this.”


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