School district staff favor mill levy to end budget cuts | CraigDailyPress.com

School district staff favor mill levy to end budget cuts

Lauren Blair

Sunset Elementary School principal Jill Hafey advocates in favor of proposing a mill levy override to the Moffat County Board of Education with a team of Sunset teachers and staff behind her Thursday night. The school board convened a special meeting to solicit public input on how to address a likely budget shortfall next year and in the years to follow.

— More than 200 people showed up to the Moffat County High School auditorium Thursday night to weigh in on how to address Moffat County School District's impending budget deficits.

An overwhelming number of teachers and community members implored the Moffat County Board of Education to support tax increases in the form of a mill levy override to help pull the school district out of financial distress.

The district's Financial Director, Tinneal Gerber, and Superintendent Brent Curtice opened the meeting, outlining the school district's budget and the need for more funding. More than 50 people signed up for the public comment period that followed the short presentation.

All six of the school district's principals took their turn at the microphone, most of them with their staff standing by in support and each beseeching the board to allow voters to consider a mill levy override on the November ballot.

"I'm tired of being under the gun of the state. I'm ready to pay more taxes … to take charge of our financial future," East Elementary Principal Sarah Hepworth said, who is also a small business owner in Craig. "I'm really tired of every year for 17 years waiting for the state to tell us how much money we have so we can figure out how much money we have to cut."

Groups of teachers also banded together to voice their support for the mill levy to be put to voters.

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"These cuts are hurting our students," MCHS English teacher Amy Hansen said on behalf of nearly a dozen MCHS faculty and staff. "We stopped replacing and updating materials altogether, asking students to, in many cases, use outdated materials or books that are falling apart, and in some areas we have book shortages, so we cannot send materials home with students, limiting their opportunities to make up work from absences or extend learning from home. "

During her presentation, Gerber said that the Colorado legislature's "negative factor," created in 2009 to address the economic recession, has cost the school district about $10.8 million in the past five years. School staff, faculty and administrators repeatedly highlighted, often with great emotion, the ways they have felt those cuts in their own departments year after year.

"During all that time we've trimmed a lot of fat. And during all that, there's not a lot of fat left to trim," said MCHS science teacher Evan Gaffney. "We're losing our students because there is a lack of opportunity at Moffat County School District. If we continue to provide students with no options, we'll continue to bleed."

Those who attended the meeting who were not school district employees, asked the school board to show the community where the money is going before putting a mill levy to the voters.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.