School district considering budget cuts | SteamboatToday.com

School district considering budget cuts

Teresa Ristow

A Steamboat Springs Middle School student works on a computer in 2014. The district is asking for about $160,000 less in technology funding from the Education Fund this year.

— Steamboat Springs School District administrators are considering several cuts as they work to build a budget to present to the school board for approval later this spring.

The reductions up for discussion are related to a decrease in grant funding from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund for the upcoming year and a desire to achieve a balanced budget.

The district is beginning the upcoming year's budget cycle $515,000 in the red due to an unbalanced budget for the current year.

An evolving budget worksheet was presented to the Board of Education in late March and will be updated and presented to the board again at its next meeting April 11.

"We're trying to present the board options," said Mark Rydberg, district finance director.

Rydberg said he will push for a balanced budget, but ultimately, it is the board's decision whether to approve costs that could lead to deficit spending.

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Proposed cuts included in the most recent budget worksheet include a reduction of eight teachers, an instructional coach and one or two tech staff positions, along with combining an instruction coach/interventionist position and reducing professional development and expenditures in new technology hardware.

The reductions are being proposed in response to the reduction in Education Fund money and to show how a balanced budget might be achieved.

The district currently expects to receive about $550,000 less from the Education Fund for next year due to the Education Fund Board's decision last year to spend down excess reserves.

The district is hopeful that many or all of the proposed teacher reductions will be decided through attrition, which would lead to remaining teachers perhaps moving into different positions but remaining employed.

The teacher reductions would increase overall class sizes, but sizes would be expected to remain low, at about 20 for kindergarten and 22 for other elementary classes.

Other financial considerations include an anticipated enrollment change, which could range between an additional 40 students and a reduction of 20 students from this year's count, based on how many students ultimately attend the new Mountain Village Montessori Charter School.

Every 10 students represents a little less than $75,000 in per-pupil funding for the district.

Even if enrollment drops, the district still anticipates an increase in overall state funding due to an expected $109-per-pupil boost in for the upcoming year.

The possible reductions outlined by the district would offset the Education Fund reduction, the negative starting point and some outlined known cost increases, including an increase in employee retirement and healthcare costs of about $80,000 and $100,000 each, respectively.

After outlining how a balanced budget could be achieved, the worksheet shows the costs of potential compensation changes for staff, ranging from $180,000 for a one percent pay increase to $432,000 for a full "step" compensation increase for teachers, classified staff and administrators.

Salary increases will be discussed during the next Collaborative Bargaining Team meeting next week.

Other enhancements the district is considering include whether to add two STEM teachers at the elementary level, add behavioral, mental health or communication specialists to staff or add back some professional development time for staff.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow