Moffat County School District budget nearing approval

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Jerry Martin

Above is a breakdown of the Moffat County School District’s proposed $1.3 million in cuts for the fiscal year 2012 budget.

Mark Rydberg said the fiscal year 2012 budget proposal for the Moffat County School District is an attempt to make the best out of an unfavorable situation.

“We’ll have $2 million less than what the state should be giving us,” the finance director said. “So, we have to make cuts. We have to live within our means. We have deficit spending this year, but really only because we had such a huge windfall.”

At Thursday’s special school board meeting, Rydberg introduced three additional changes to the fiscal year 2012 draft budget proposal that was initially unveiled in late February.

Those changes introduce deficit spending of $340,000 to cover salary increases negotiated between the Moffat County Education Association and the school board negotiation teams.

The $340,000 in salary increases will be paid out of $2 million the district received from mineral leasing activity in the county. The remainder of the mineral money will be saved in a capital reserve fund and a health and dental fund.

Of the $340,000, Rydberg said $120,000 will pay for a 1-percent cost of living increase for all district employees; $165,000 will fund stepped pay increases as part of the district’s salary schedule; and $25,000 will be set aside to pay licensed staff for projects that fall outside of normal business hours.

The proposed budget calls for a $1.3 million operations cut from last year.

Rydberg predicted the district will have spent $19.8 million at the close of fiscal year 2011, which ends June 30. The proposal for 2012 calls for an operating budget of $18.5 million.

To reach those cuts, Rydberg said the district has followed its guiding principles, which are remaining true to core beliefs — mission, vision, commitments and ideals — student learning results, collaboration, continuous improvement and systemic student interventions; achieving a balanced budget and not tapping the reserve fund; ensuring all district programs and services will be considered for redesign, reduction, supplementation or elimination using core beliefs; and considering reduction through attrition, then furlough days and other means to reduce daily/weekly hours before considering reduction in force.

The school district also proposes to save $800,000 by reducing FTEs, or full-time equivalents; $200,000 by postponing the purchase of a district-wide social studies curriculum; $100,000 by postponing capital improvements; $50,000 by reducing bus routes; $100,000 by reducing purchases of new school supplies; and $50,000 by reducing energy consumption.

The district seeks to reduce its staffing for fiscal year 2012 by 25 FTEs.

Rydberg said those cuts were already made at the end of the school year through retirements, natural attrition, non-renewal of a licensed professional due to a program change, and non-renewal of about 10 supplemental contracts with previously retired teachers.

“That got us to where we wanted to be,” he said, adding that there are no plans for layoffs.

Rydberg said the school district was also able to reduce FTEs by redrawing student attendance boundaries.

Starting with the next school year, students who reside in the Shadow Mountain neighborhood will no longer attend Sandrock Elementary School. Instead, they will go to Ridgeview Elementary School.

Students who reside south of Victory Way between Washington and Ranney streets will not attend Sandrock, but rather go to East Elementary School.

“We reshaped the school attendance boundary areas to spread out the kids from our most populated school to two of our least populated schools, and that helped cut the number of elementary school teachers we needed, and that helped with FTE count,” Rydberg said. “They had about 355 kids (at Sandrock). Ridgeview had 210. East had 235. With the changes, Sandrock will have about 285, Ridgeview will have 255, East will have 265, and Sunset will have about 275.”

The proposed cuts also call for reducing the number of miles in rural bus routes. Families on impacted routes may have to drive their children between one and 20 miles to the nearest designated bus stop, Rydberg said.

The proposed reduction means that district buses will drive 45,000 fewer miles in fiscal year 2012. It also means less fuel, less staff hours, less depreciation on vehicles, and $50,000 in savings.

Rydberg said 40 riders and roughly 20 families would be affected. He added there are about 800 potential bus riders in the district, but the number of average daily riders is about 600.

Rydberg said proposed changes to school programs are minimal in the budget draft.

“We didn’t make a lot of program changes,” he said. “We reduced our intervention support, (and) we postponed social studies curriculum resources. … We cut some custodial hours, and we cut some capital expenditures to the bare minimum. The library program was reduced. School supplies were reduced.”

The proposed budget will be voted on at the school board’s next regular meeting June 23.

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