HomeNews Upcoming RE1J School budget cuts becoming more clear
Upcoming RE1J School budget cuts becoming more clear
Written by Seth Mensing
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Administrative position suspended and fewer students expected next year
A lot of people want to know where the Gunnison RE-1J school district will get $1 million to make up for state funding cuts. The fact is, the administration isn’t finding more money to put into the budget, and state cuts keep coming.
Instead, in an update to the school board Monday, March 29, school superintendent Jon Nelson was able to shed some light on where money will likely be taken out of the budget. As the district’s administrative council (AdCo) went though options for reducing the district’s budget expenses, they worked from a list of assumptions that helped guide their decisions away from trouble. “We understood the need to maintain the original square footage [of the school expansion projects] that is being added through the bond. It was a priority of the past board and we wanted to honor that,” Nelson said. “We also understood that over 80 percent of the budget is personnel-related.” Because so many of the district’s facilities have been newly remodeled, the district will increase the amount of money available for maintenance by $215,000 next year. District business manager Stephanie Juneau says the additional money will support the salaries of an additional two-and-a-half [full-time equivalent] employees for custodial staff; cover increased utility usage; include contracted services for the facilities; and allow for increased purchases of custodial and maintenance supplies. The only other costs the district anticipates going up are those mandated by the state, like an increased district payment to the Public Employees Retirement Association that amounts to about $90,000. Otherwise, all of the district’s major expenses have been reduced to cover the cuts. And although the meeting was a work session, where no official action can be taken, Nelson laid out the reasoning AdCo used to get to the place where the budget talks are now. “Our assumptions here were that we would show a one-time reduction in the capital reserve fund of $181,000 and we’ll have to address it again in 2011-2012,” Nelson said. The district is expecting to lose 20 students next year, which could cost the schools additional funding from the state. Prior to this year’s recisions, the district was reimbursed about $7,200 for each enrolled student. Recently that amount has dropped to around $6,900. “Obviously we would like to see us be wrong on that one. But with the economy there are no guarantees that families will be able to stay in the area,” Nelson said. “We know of a few families that have one parent working outside the valley and they don’t know how much longer they will be able to continue that.” Another development Nelson revealed to the board was the consideration that has been made by AdCo to increase the size of classes at the district school, which would save money on space and teachers. “We certainly don’t want to approach Front Range numbers, but our [classes] are considered to be small, given the economic climate,” he said. In the last presentation of the preliminary draft budget, the board heard that the district would be able to reduce teaching expenses by five full-time positions through attrition, retirement and leaves of absence. The savings from that will be more than $200,000. In this round, Nelson was able to tell the board those teaching positions would all come from the Gunnison schools, with two retirements and two leaves of absence, with the possibility that one part-time teacher might be leaving for the year. But a more noticeable blow might come from the loss of the position of Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, which was filled just last year by Dan Schmidt after Dr. Chris Purkiss left the district for another opportunity. Juneau said between the salary and benefits that go with the position, the savings will be about $86,000. But someone will need to be hired to cover the clerical aspects of the job, so the savings is actually closer to $70,000. That worried board members Bill Powell and Jim Perkins, who remember seeing the district spend more than $100,000 on a consultant who worked for three years to put the school on the right curriculum path. They don’t want to see that effort go to waste. And Perkins was concerned by what the lost position would mean for teachers, who already have full days of work to do. “Teachers have only so much time. So what is being given up to cover the lost position?” Perkins asked. “I don’t want it to become a check list sort of thing.” To reduce costs even further, AdCo is recommending a termination of retirement pay and fewer dollars being paid in longevity pay. Nelson also said there would be no increase in teachers’ salaries, although that hasn’t been finalized in the contract negotiation process that will be coming at the end of April and in early May. To see a copy of the first draft of the district’s 2010-11 budget, visit gunnisonschools.net, click on the “financial information” link under the “School Board” tab. A copy of the district’s timeline for final budget adoption is also available online.