Committee hears from official

Superintendent Pete Bergmann testifies before House panel

Superintendent Pete Bergmann said the Colorado House education committee sending the annual School Finance Act onto the entire House is a sign that "all our hard work is paying off."

Bergmann, Moffat County School District's superintendent, testified Monday before the education committee, which amended the act to include Gov. Bill Ritter's proposal to freeze property-tax rates.

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Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan testified before the Colorado Senate education committee in mid-March about decreasing the disparity between the state average per pupil funding and the lowest-funded districts. Moffat County is the lowest funded per pupil district in the state.

"I basically carried that same message forward to a different group of people to support Moffat County's proposal to re-establish a minimum level of floor funding," Bergmann said.

Ritter's plan would allow Colorado districts to keep an estimated $55 million for preschool and kindergarten programs and to bring the lowest-funded districts to minimum floor funding by locking property-tax rates. Bergmann said Ritter's plan would provide the necessary funding for Moffat County's proposal.

Legislators are constructing a three-year plan that would provide all districts with at least 95 percent of the average district's funding.

The amended bill will go before the entire House this week, Bergmann expects. If it passes, the bill proceeds to the Senate next week. If Ritter signs the bill -- probable since he introduced it -- Moffat County will see some additional revenue for the 2007-08 school year, though Bergmann is unsure of how much.

He praised State Rep. Al White -- who Bergmann said is the lone Republican to voice his support of Democrat Ritter's plan -- for his continued support in the district's efforts.

"He is saying that education and Moffat County's needs are at the top of his list," Bergmann said.

And while such legislative progress would be a success for the district, Bergmann said the Board of Education would need to proceed with budget cuts and reductions during the next couple of years.

"We need to reduce our expenditures regardless of whether this legislation passes," Bergmann said. "It decreases the urgency but not the need."

He said he embraces a three-pronged attack to solve the district's financial crisis: get the school finance law more equitable, reduce expenditures and ask the community for more local tax support in the November election.

"I think if we put all three of these together, we will ensure the fiscal security of the school district," he said.

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