School board reviews early budget proposal |

School board reviews early budget proposal

Scott Schlaufman

Lean budgetary times could cause the Moffat County School District to look quite different next year.

That was the sentiment school district finance director Mark Rydberg shared with the Moffat County School Board during a Monday afternoon workshop.

Rydberg presented the board with a first draft budget proposal, as the district tries to prepare for potentially steep budget cuts.

In addition to the school board, about 40 people, including students, parents and district staff, attended the workshop, which preceded the regular monthly board meeting.

The district is looking to cut $2.3 million from its budget following a state budget proposal that would eliminate 14 percent in K-12 funding.

The reduction in funding would potentially eliminate $1,000 in funding per student.

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Although an official public portion was not on the workshop's agenda, there was time leftover that the school board used for a short question-and-answer session.

Rydberg said there would likely be changes in the budget plan as it continues to take shape the next few months.

"This is a starting document," he said. "It's on paper and there's always a sense of finality when it's on paper, but there's a lot of work to be done to understand what all of these components (of the budget cuts) are."

Many of the cuts called for in the first budget draft are expected to stem from full-time equivalents, which can mean employees or work hours. District officials said there is some hope that employee attrition will supply most of the FTE cuts.

Changes expected to the budget draft include higher than anticipated costs for employee health and dental coverage. The district was going to use a windfall from this year to create a reserve in its insurance fund, but the expense used in the draft will be too low, Rydberg said.

"I'd really hoped that $100,000 was going to do it," he said. "I've talked with our broker, looked at some numbers ¬— that number is probably too low. We definitely still want to be on a premium increase. We do not want the reserve to completely eat it up."

He said more information would be available on the insurance expense by April's school board meeting.

Another change was $325,000 of potential reductions that were based on Colorado Senate Bill 74, which would have rebalanced contributions to the Public Employees' Retirement Association.

The bill, Rydberg said, was indefinitely suspended and not an option.

"Take out $325,000 out of the reduction, and you take that health and dental and move it up to maybe $200,000, and that's a $425,000 swing right there," he said. "That puts the surplus/deficit number in a lot different light."

There was no discussion at the meeting of closing the swimming pool at Moffat County High School or making other athletic cuts.

The board had limited questions but allowed audience comments.

Kristi Shepherd, a teacher at Sandrock Elementary School, was among those who expressed concern over how long budget cuts could continue.

Shepard said public education has "taken a major dive and nobody gives a rip."

Board chairwoman Jo Ann Baxter agreed.

"My only comment back is that everybody in the whole state feels that way," Baxter said. "There are people out there who care a great deal, but until we have a better attitude about raising our taxes and saying that taxes are … indeed an investment and that we need that investment as a society to help children, then we're not going to make a profit."

Lisa Wood, also a teacher at Sandrock, raised concerns about possible redistricting of students within elementary schools and the class sizes it would create, especially given recent scores in the Colorado Student Assessment Program.

"When you put a lot of pressure onto one school and you've got these teachers such as myself and Kristi and all these teachers represented here, we want to have just as much of an advantage at giving our students a fair education," Wood said.

Baxter said the concern would be considered.

Rydberg said projecting class sizes is difficult.

"We won't really know what enrollment is at our four schools until basically after Labor Day," he said. "My message to the board is that we're going to have the same amount of bubble pressure we normally see, it's just going to be our ability to adapt to it that might be different."

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In other news:

At its regular monthly meeting, the Moffat County School Board:

• Approved, 7-0, the second reading of policy 3541.6, regarding vehicle replacement.

• Approved, 7-0, the first reading of policy 3517.2, regarding security and access to buildings.

• Approved, 7-0, the first reading of policy 4135, regarding supplemental employment of retired staff members.

• Approved, 7-0, the first reading of policy 1210.1, regarding school visitor protocol.

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