South Routt School Board budget cut discussions begin | SteamboatToday.com

South Routt School Board budget cut discussions begin

Members look at possible 2010-11 cuts

Jack Weinstein

— One thing is absolutely certain about the South Routt School District's effort to cut its 2010-11 school year budget, Business Manager Dina Murray said.

"None of these cuts are going to be fun."

The School Board met in a special session Tuesday to begin discussing how to cut a projected $472,000 from the 2010-11 budget. Murray and Superintendent Scott Mader reiterated that the projection was merely a starting point and didn't include salary increases for personnel or other possible cuts.

South Routt, along with the Steamboat Springs and Hayden school districts, is preparing for a budget year in which it must find a way to live without as much as 10 percent in state funding.

The $472,000 projected shortfall for South Routt includes an estimated 7.75 percent reduction in state funding.

School Board members discussed a number of ways to save money, such as reducing the year-end projected fund balance of more than $1.1 million; going to a four-day workweek for faculty and staff; and reducing professional development, fees and memberships and supplies by 30 percent.

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The district estimated that those three measures would save about $250,000 — still short.

Board members discussed the possibility of going to voters for a mill levy override to raise property taxes, which would generate more than $170,000 in additional revenue. The district estimated that an override would cost the district's residents about $8 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

The possibility of cutting faculty and staff positions also came up.

Just about every possibility was met with little fanfare from members of the board.

Board member Gena Hange said she didn't think it was the right economic climate to ask taxpayers for an override. Board member Willie Smith said he favored a property tax increase before the possibility of cutting staff.

"We might have to do both," board member Rodney Wilson said.

Board member Joel Harris said he didn't see another way. He said if the board was considering staff cuts, it had to at least try to generate additional revenue elsewhere.

Murray reminded board members that even if the district decided to ask for a property tax increase, it wasn't a guarantee. Voters still would have to approve it in November.

School Board President Tim Corrigan said the district would have to prepare a "worst-case scenario" 2010-11 budget without the override, if the district decided to pursue it. If an override were passed, the district could then amend the budget to include the additional revenue, he said.

The School Board also discussed the possibility of passing on the increased cost of health insurance, about $24,000, to employees, and making dental insurance a voluntary benefit. That would save the district about $27,000.

The board also discussed revenue generators such as grants and increasing fees.

It seemed that the only actions board members reached a consensus about were not increasing salaries next school year, not cutting entire programs and keeping full-day kindergarten. Going to a half-day-only kindergarten program was mentioned early in the meeting but had no support.

There was, however, some support for the possibility of assessing parents to make the program self-sustaining. The district pays for more than 40 percent of the program. The cost, if passed to parents, wasn't available Tuesday.

Mader said the next step would be discussing possible cuts with district administrators and principals. Staff discussions would follow before the district started presenting an overview of possible cuts to the District Accountability Committee, the District Improvement Team, parents and the community.

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