Steamboat Springs School District’s budget season starts Monday with community forum |

Steamboat Springs School District’s budget season starts Monday with community forum

Scott Franz

Students in a lower Montessori class work through various projects in 2011 at Strawberry Park Elementary School in Steamboat Springs. The Montessori program will be discussed Monday night when budget proposals are presented from the district's elementary schools.

— The Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday night will kick off another budget season that will be marked by limited funding and some tough choices about the future of programs such as athletics and elementary-level Montessori.

At 5:30 p.m., the board will host the first of two community forums where all of the district’s buildings and programs will present their budget proposals for the 2013-14 school year.

The meetings will provide residents with the opportunity to learn about the district’s financial priorities and to also weigh in on the budget proposals.

"I assume these meetings will be well attended because people are concerned about school programs and trying to make sure the money is being spent in the right places," School Board President Brian Kelly said, adding that it will be another tight budget year for the school district that has seen its funding significantly reduced during the past four years.

Last school year, the budget proposals for the district’s athletic department, elementary Montessori program, SEAL program for at-risk students and fifth-grade band program attracted passionate community feedback because of the budget reductions the programs were facing.

And this year, the board is expected to again face some tough funding choices.

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Kelly said the board and the school district will have to "take a hard look" at a small number of school programs and classes that have declining enrollment and decide whether they should continue to be funded.

He said programs like the lower-level Montessori, which has only about a dozen students enrolled for next school year, and some Advanced Placement classes at the high school are on the list.

"As times get tougher, you start taking a harder look at courses with low enrollment at any level across the district," Kelly said. "You can’t let them linger on (with low enrollment) for two to three years and hope that the program comes back."

The school district also again is wrestling with how to address a shortfall in funding for its athletic programs.

The budgets being presented Monday night include those of the district’s elementary schools, special education program, English language learners program, gifted and talented program, nursing program and the curriculum director.

The forum Tuesday will focus on the budgets at the secondary schools, the athletics, transportation, maintenance and technology departments, and the district’s administrative office.

This week’s budget forums come as the School Board is pondering whether to ask residents here for a mill levy override to better fund school programs or the salaries of teachers.

Funding to support full-day kindergarten or to boost the cost-of-living adjustment given to staff to boost their salaries are two of the ideas the board has floated as possible targets of a mill levy override.

The property tax increase is being considered as a response to a major school finance bill that is working through the state Legislature.

The district is anticipating that the bill would make future mill levy overrides much more difficult in the future.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email