On Friday, Joe Petrone and Mark Rydberg paid a visit to Moffat County High School to present the administration’s draft budget proposal for fiscal year 2012.
The proposal introduces $2,325,750 in cuts from fiscal year 2011.
The presentation was open to all MCHS students. However, six members of the student council were the only attendees.
District Superintendent Petrone, passed out copies of the draft proposal to the students.
“What you all have in front of you is the beginning point,” Petrone said. “Just understand these are rough draft proposals.”
From there, District Finance Director Rydberg led the group through each item of the draft, which includes a reduction of more than 20 FTEs, a redistribution of 45 students from Sandrock Elementary School to Ridgeview Elementary School, reductions in bus routes and more.
FTEs — or Full Time Equivalents — roughly translates to full-time employees, but can also be expressed in man-hours.
Rydberg said the district’s proposed cuts are the result of a state budget proposal unveiled by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Feb. 15. Hickenlooper’s draft calls for a 14 percent reduction in K-12 funding throughout Colorado.
In Moffat County, a 14 percent reduction equals $2.2 million, Rydberg said.
“If the state wasn’t broke, we would get $7,000 per kid,” Rydberg said. “Instead of $7,000 per kid, we’re going to get $6,000 per kid.
“That’s a significant amount of money.”
First, Rydberg discussed proposed cuts that affect the district as a whole.
The proposal shows the district could save $240,000 in 2012 by reducing the district’s physical education by one FTE, music education by one FTE, art education by one FTE and library staff by one FTE.
“It certainly means less,” Rydberg said of services. “It won’t be the same. An elementary kid gets four days of music right now. It’s very likely that they’ll get three.”
The proposal also calls for $123,750 in savings through a reduction of 5.5 paraprofessional FTEs.
Rydberg said he hopes the proposed reductions in FTEs can be attained through natural attrition.
Each year, the district experiences staff losses through retirements and resignations. This year, employees lost through natural attrition would most likely not be replaced, he said. And, existing teachers would pitch in where needed.
“We’re going to try to spread that out and share the services,” Rydberg said.
The proposal doesn’t indicate a decision on the swimming pool at MCHS. Rydberg said discussions are pending a final recommendation from the Swim Pool Task Force — a committee of administrators, teachers and community members who are seeking funding options for the pool.
The task force’s recommendation will be presented to the school board in March, Rydberg said.
Next, Rydberg discussed cuts at the school level.
Regarding MCHS, the proposal seeks to save $215,000 by eliminating three FTEs, and $20,000 by reducing funding for extracurricular activities.
Regarding Craig Middle School, the proposal seeks to save $170,000 by reducing three FTEs.
Rydberg said this reduction could be achieved by eliminating midday teacher collaborative periods.
Regarding Sunset Elementary School, the proposal calls for a savings of $125,000 by reducing two FTEs. Under this plan, Sunset would become a two-track school, meaning there would be two kindergarten classes, two first grade classes and so on.
The greatest cost savings in the proposal, amounting to $315,000, comes in the form of redistributing 45 students from Sandrock to Ridgeview.
“We have a significant disparity in enrollment at each school,” Rydberg said. “Right now, Ridgeview has about 210 kids. Sandrock has 355.
“That is a huge difference.
Rydberg said the students who would be moved to Ridgeview are residents of Craig’s Shadow Mountain neighborhood.
“Shadow Mountain was within the Ridgeview boundary,” he said. “It got moved two years ago to Sandrock, and what we’re proposing is that we move them back to Ridgeview.”
Petrone said residents of Shadow Mountain have been notified of the proposal.
“We’re having a conversation with families next week to hear from them about their thoughts regarding the change,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that they have to deal with another transition, but we believe it’s the right thing to do with the numbers we have.”
The administrators also discussed proposed cuts in transportation. The proposal seeks savings of $70,000 by redrawing bus routes.
“The thought here is that we would stop driving as much on county roads and make people come to (bus) stops,” Rydberg said. “It’s been done in the past.”
Other items on the proposal include the possibility of freezing “steps,” or yearly pay raises, and saving $200,000 by cutting back on computer replacements.
With the presentation complete, the student council asked questions.
MCHS junior April Rogers asked about the reductions in FTEs.
“Are you guys letting go some of the staff?” said Rogers.
Rydberg said he hoped to accomplish reductions through attrition.
“We’re trying our best to not let someone go,” he said.
Senior Slade Gurr asked if reserve funds could be used to pay for services.
Rydberg said the school board has the flexibility to tap reserves, but it might be unwise.
“Deficit spending for a government organization — one that has very little ability to affect its revenue — is a very dangerous thing to do,” he said. “You get short-term gains out of it.”
Junior Kirstie McPherson asked whether the swimming pool could be closed in order to pay for ongoing computer upgrades throughout the district.
Rydberg said an additional cut from the budget wouldn’t necessarily translate to a gain for computers.
“It’s not as easy as saying that if we cut the pool that it will automatically go to computers,” he said. “There are many needs here that the board may feel is more important.”
Petrone said the draft proposal represents the first step in a difficult and deeply affecting process.
“These are relatively reasonable options among poor choices,” he said. “Not one of these choices is something we like.”
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