2017-18 school budget is the first to include voter-approved 3A, 3B | VailDaily.com

2017-18 school budget is the first to include voter-approved 3A, 3B

With the two voter-approved taxes, Eagle County schools will spend less per pupil than Aspen, but more than Cherry Creek.

District DEMOGRAPHICS

• 28 percent of local students are English Language Learners compared with 14.2 percent statewide.

• 41 percent of local students qualify for free and reduced lunch, one of the Department of Education’s criteria in determining which students are considered “at-risk.”

Source: Eagle County School District

New positions

The new school district budget includes 46.8 new full-time positions

1 Gifted and Talented specialist

2 Student Services, early college

College and Career Counselor

Career X Assistant

3 Technology (3A)

3 Maintenance (3A)

1 FTE for Berry Creek Middle School

1 FTE Edwards enrollment

2.62 Preschool (3A)

26.85 new classroom teachers (3A) (mostly certified)

6.33 in grant positions.

No district level staff added.

Source: Eagle County School District

EAGLE — Eagle County Schools next annual budget reflects two voter-approved tax increases: an $8 million annual funding increase and $144 million in construction projects.

Yes, the school district will spend $219,036,171 in 2017-18.

And yes, Eagle County voters told them they could.

Of that spending total, $123.245 million is construction spending ($102.562 million) and the bond ($20.682 million) green-lighted by Eagle County voters.

“I am proud of the transparency and fiscal responsibility we have been able to demonstrate in this budget, which is in no small part due to the diligence of our financial team and our board of education.”Jason GlassSuperintendent, Eagle County Schools

The remaining $95.79 million for the 2017-18 school year is about what the district usually spends.

"We are grateful to our community for passing both (2016 ballot measures) 3A and 3B, which will set our community schools up for success for the next several years," said Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County schools. "This budget reflects the community's values of putting more dollars and support directly into classrooms and activities that impact students."

"I am proud of the transparency and fiscal responsibility we have been able to demonstrate in this budget, which is in no small part due to the diligence of our financial team and our board of education," Glass added.

More than Cherry Creek, less than Aspen

State lawmakers closed this year's legislative session by boosting per-pupil funding by $242 for the 2017-18 school year.

In Eagle County, that means $1.893 million more for next year, increasing funding to $7,962 per pupil for the next school year, up from $7,703 last year, according to the district's financials.

With the extra money from the two voter-approved taxes, Eagle County Schools are spending around $10,000 per year on each pupil. That includes $2,369 per student from the 3A tax, $8 million in additional revenue for each of the district's 6,877 students expected to show up when the doors open in August.

A quick comparison finds that Eagle County's $10,000 per student is about $1,000 more per pupil than Summit County and Cherry Creek, but about $1,000 less than Aspen and Telluride. The Aspen School District receives an additional $2,937.72 per student from its voter-approved mill levy overrides, according to that district's financial data.

Calculated another way, if every dime spent on everything for all funds, including the construction and bond money, is divided by the number of students, (6,877), we'll spend $31,850 on every student during the 2017-18 school year.

However, the actual cost of educating kids is funded through the school district's general fund — $76 million — school district officials said.

When voters approved 3B ($144 million in construction spending with a $233 million payoff including interest), the school district rolled its remaining 2006 voter-approved bond debt into the new bond, for a total payoff of $371.7 million, including principal and interest, according to the school district's new budget.

900 employees

Some of that voter-approved $8 million is hiring more people, said Sandra Mutchler, the school district's chief operating officer.

The school district will employ 904.2 full-time positions during the 2017-18 school year, up 46.8 positions from last year. Of those, 26.85 are classroom teachers.

That makes the district one of Eagle County's largest employers, along with Vail Resorts (8,015 employees in Eagle County) and Vail Valley Medical Center (888 employees in Eagle County), according to county employment data.

Teachers union contract upgrade

Some of that $8 million money from 3A will be spent on the local teachers union contract. The 2017-18 contract saw four significant financial wins for its members:

• A pay raise: Teachers will get a 1 percent salary increase. That comes on the heels of an 11 percent pay raise in January, and a 2.5 percent pay raise in 2015-16. The district's executive level staffers do not get raises.

• Increasing retirement payments: The school district will contribute 19.9 percent of each employee's annual salary to the state's Public Employees Retirement Account, beginning with the 2017-18 school year. State lawmakers mandated that the amount continue to ratchet up every year for the next few years in an attempt to keep the fund solid. It's a trade-off, though. It will limit what the district can spend money on in the future, district officials said.

• Performance pay: The school district's performance bonus pay will hit employees with second September paycheck. Employees are eligible for a bonus up to 1 percent of their 2017-18 base salary.

• Health insurance: The district will absorb all of the 10 percent increase to employees' health insurance premiums, $986,000.

STATE EQUALIZATION

In Colorado, schools are funded from three sources: local property taxes, state funds, and vehicle registration fees. The goal of state education officials is to keep school funding fairly equal across Colorado, evening the disparity in potential education spending between affluent areas like Aspen and Vail, and poor areas including Conejos County. The lower an area's property values, the more it receives in state funding, said Sandra Mutchler, Eagle County school district's chief operating officer.

In Eagle County, second homeowners paid up to 60 percent of the county's residential property tax bill through the end of 2016, said Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.