District seeks funding solution

Moffat County School District proposes bill for more state money to lowest-funded districts

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As the lowest-funded district per pupil in the state, Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said it's no secret Moffat County School District is in a financial strain.

"It's gotten to be more and more of a crisis situation," Sheridan said.

So the school board's finance committee has developed a proposal for the bottom 10 percent of Colorado districts to receive a certain percentage of the state's average district funding.

Sheridan said the formula for determining per-pupil funding considers the district's size, the at-risk population and the cost of living in the city in which the district is located.

Sheridan said the cost of living affects Moffat County's funding the most. The district receives $5,875.27 per student this year.

The state sets a floor amount of funding each year so any districts that fall below that amount automatically are bumped up to that minimum.

Last year, Moffat County was the only district to fall below the floor. This year, Moffat County and all other districts exceeded the floor.

Sheridan said Moffat Coun-ty's plan eliminates the need for the state to recalculate the floor each year by using a percentage instead.

He said the gap between the highest-funded and lowest-funded districts in the state is growing under the current system.

"The disparity between funding in school districts continues to widen," Sheridan said. "All we want to do is slow the rate of disparity."

The proposal is not a long-term solution, Sheridan said. He said he hopes the Public School Finance Act of 1994, which sets the funding formula, eventually will be rewritten.

But until then, Sheridan said Moffat County's proposal would help sustain the district's financial situation as has a mill levy override passed 10 years ago by local taxpayers.

State Rep. Al White has become involved with the proposed bill and currently has legislative staff working to create breakdowns of the effects on districts if the bill passes and if it doesn't.

"It's important because we have a number of districts that are falling further and further behind ... It's kind of a flaw in the School Finance Act," White said.

If accepted as presented, the new funding plan would cost the state about $21 million.

Sheridan said the district could have an answer to whether the bill passes or not by May, in time to receive additional funding for next school year.

White said making that happen is an important task for him.

"I want to make sure the students in Moffat County have an equal opportunity to be educated as others in the state and in my district," White said.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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