Amendment 66 failure won’t mean cuts
EAGLE COUNTY — Amendment 66’s failure does not mean further budget cuts for local schools, said Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools.
“Eagle County Schools made tough sacrifices over the past few years to get our budget in line with the new and lower revenue levels in Colorado,” Glass said.
Over the past three years, the school district cut millions of dollars and hundreds of people, reduced services, raised fees and suspended pay raises, Glass said.
“Amendment 66 would have begun to restore some of that lost capacity. While the failure of the amendment does not mean there will be further cuts, it does mean that our path back to pre-recession funding levels will take much longer and be more difficult,” Glass said.
Belt tightening pays off
That belt tightening resulted in the school district reporting a $1.5 million one-time surplus when its fiscal year ended.
Glass directed that some of the surplus money be spent on teachers and staff, temporarily restoring performance pay bonuses that had been cut along with everything else in the school district’s budget over the last three years.
As for the rest of the money, the school district is replacing things such as 8-year-old computers and making some much needed building repairs, which had been postponed in the face of budget cuts.
The school district is also changing its health benefits program, which save about $1 million a year, and is changing its bus transportation system to make it more efficient, said Dan Dougherty, the school district’s communications director.
The district is trimming its central administration. The district spends 7 percent of its budget on central administration and support staff, Dougherty said.
Earlier this year the school district refinanced its bond debt at a lower interest rate, which will cut $7 million from the payoff of the $128 million general obligation bond Eagle County voters approved in 2006. That money built and renovated schools and bought land.
That $7 million returns to local taxpayers in the form of slightly lower property taxes.
Making political hay
Almost before the ink was dry on Amendment 66’s defeat, Colorado’s House Republicans announced a package of education bills that range from transparency to transportation.
The Republican agenda includes some provisions from Senate Bill 13-213, the education reform package linked to the Amendment 66 tax increase. Republicans say they plan to address school spending transparency, student counts, capital construction and transportation equity for charter schools, and English language proficiency.
“By rejecting the massive tax increase championed by Gov. Hickenlooper and Democratic leadership, Colorado voters are telling us they want real education reform, but they want it done within existing resources,” said Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland.
Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, a House education committee member and former school district superintendent, will introduce the spending transparency bill.
DelGrosso will introduce a bill changing the way students are counted. Right now, students are counted on Oct. 1 and schools are funded based on students counted that day. DelGrosso’s bill will base school funding on average daily attendance.
Other proposed legislation
Republicans also say they’ll introduce legislation to equalize transportation funding between neighborhood schools and charter schools, and a bill to direct more funding to English language learners. Colorado’s schools have more than 110,000 English language learners.
Eagle County’s schools have the fourth-highest percentage of English language learners in Colorado. Lake County has the highest percentage.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.