Eagle County aternative schools could be among budget cuts | VailDaily.com
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Eagle County aternative schools could be among budget cuts

Randy Wyrickrwyrick@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado

EAGLE, Colorado – Three of the valley’s alternative schools could be on the chopping block as the school board looks for ways to cut millions from next year’s budget.The New America School, Red Canyon High School and the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy will be part of a series of discussions of ways to cut as much as $5 million from next year’s school district budget.The discussions will range over several months. Wednesday’s is the first.”We will discuss the fact that some limited community input has indicated that people don’t understand the necessity of having alternative high schools. We will discuss the option of not having those types of programs and what that would mean for our students. I personally believe that Red Canyon fulfills a crucial role in high school,” said Dr. Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County schools.This year’s school enrollment is up 166 over last year, but a student population of around 5,800 is still well below the district’s capacity, 8,260 students, according to school district statistics.Before Eagle County voters rejected the school district’s request for a $6 million property tax increase, the school district said three schools could be closed if it didn’t get the money.The advance material for this week’s school board meeting is the first time any schools have been named.”At this time, we are estimating at least $5 million dollars in cuts. This amount is not certain, as the state budgeting process is under way and we will not have final information on school funding until later in the year,” Smyser told the school board in material for Wednesday’s meeting.What may get cutThe school board will begin considering cuts in a wide range of areas but won’t come to any decisions until next spring when it adopts next year’s budget.Areas being considered during budget discussions include:• Performance pay/professional development/master-mentor.• Staffing ratios.• Specials.• New America School, Red Canyon High School and Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.• Reduction in force policy.• Central district office staffing.• Furlough days/four day weeks/other possible calendar changes.• School consolidations/closures.• Sale of assets.The school district spent just more than $750,000 last year on performance-pay bonuses. Staffers get bonuses instead of a lock-step automatic annual pay raise since the school district adopted its performance-pay program.During last year’s budget-cut discussions, school district officials said another $1 million could come from unpaid time off – or furlough days.School district officials said cuts in state funding have forced them to cut $9 million and shed 100 jobs over the past two years.The Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy is the nation’s only public school ski academy and moved into the Minturn Middle School building this year.Red Canyon High School has campuses in Edwards and Eagle. The school board will talk about all that in the coming months.”The discussion about how many campuses Red Canyon needs and where those campuses should be is a related question that will also be discussed,” Smyser said.The most recent assessments put the school district’s total assets at $605 million, down 20 percent from the previous assessment.Statewide cutsSchools are funded through a combination of property taxes, vehicle taxes and state funding.The Eagle County school district is one of 14 of Colorado’s 178 school districts that receives its state funding primarily from local sources, the school district said.”Eighty-six percent of Eagle County schools’ general fund comes from property taxes, 5 percent comes from the state and 9 percent comes from other local sources,” the school district said.

By Randy Wyrickrwyrick@vaildaily.com=================If you go …What: School board special meeting. The first of a series of budget cut discussionsWhen: 6 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. private executive sessionWhere: School board offices, 757 E. Third Street, EagleWhy: Anticipating cuts in state spending=================EAGLE – Three of the valley’s alternative schools could be on the chopping block as the school board looks for ways to cut millions from next year’s budget.The New America School, Red Canyon High School and the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy will be part of a series of discussions of ways to cut as much as $5 million from next year’s school district budget.The discussions will range over several months. Wednesday’s is the first.”We will discuss the fact that some limited community input has indicated that people don’t understand the necessity of having an alternative high schools. We will discuss the option of not having those types of programs and what that would mean for our students. I personally believe that Red Canyon fulfills a crucial role in high school,” said Dr. Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County’s schools.This year’s school enrollment is up 166 over last year, but student population of around 5,800 is still well below the district’s capacity, 8,260 students, according to school district statistics.Before Eagle County voters rejected the school district’s request for a $6 million property tax increase, the school district said three schools could be closed if it didn’t get the money.The advance material for this week’s school board meeting is the first time any schools have been named.”At this time we are estimating at least $5 million dollars in cuts. This amount is not certain, as the state budgeting process is under way and we will not have final information on school funding until later in the year,” Smyser told the school board in material for Wednesday’s meeting.What may get cutThe school board will begin considering cuts in a wide range of areas, but won’t come to any decisions until next spring when it adopts next year’s budget.Areas being considered during budget discussions include:• Performance pay/professional development/master-mentor.• Staffing ratios.• Specials.• New America School, Red Canyon High School, and Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.• Reduction in force policy.• Central district office staffing.• Furlough days/four day weeks/other possible calendar changes.• School consolidations/closures.• Sale of assets.The school district spent just over $750,000 last year on performance pay bonuses. Staffers get bonuses instead of a lock-step automatic annual pay raise since the school district adopted its performance pay program.During last year’s budget cut discussions, school district officials said another $1 million could come from unpaid time off – or furlough days.School district officials say cuts in state funding have forced them to cut $9 million and shed 100 jobs over the last two years.The Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy is the nation’s only public school ski academy and moved into the Minturn Middle School building this year.Red Canyon High School has campuses in Edwards and Eagle. The school board will talk about all that, in the coming months.”The discussion about how many campuses Red Canyon needs, and where those campuses should be is a related question that will also be discussed,” Smyser said.The most recent assessments put the school district’s total assets at $605 million, down 20 percent from the previous assessment.Statewide cutsSchools are funded through a combination of property taxes, vehicle taxes and state funding.The Eagle County school district is one of 14 of Colorado’s 178 school districts that receives its state funding primarily from local sources, the school district says.”Eighty-six percent of Eagle County Schools’ general fund comes from property taxes, five percent comes from the State and nine percent comes from other local sources,” the school district says.In previous recessions, Colorado’s state lawmakers have made up the difference when school districts saw their tax revenues drop. That’s not likely this time around.Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2012-13 budget proposes cuts of about $89 million from next year’ $5.2 billion education budget, a reduction of approximately $160 per pupil in state funding.The governor’s budget also calculates that state revenue will be down 5 percent from the 2007 peak.Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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