Eagle County group raising money for education | VailDaily.com

Eagle County group raising money for education

AVON, Colorado – While the school district is cutting jobs, a new local foundation is raising money to save some of them.

The Education Foundation for Eagle County got the green light from the school board to collect private donations for public school staffing. The group’s organizers came up with the idea late last year when voters shot down the school district’s proposed property tax increase.

The Education Foundation for Eagle County will raise and distribute private funds within the school district.

“We couldn’t have asked for anything more,” said Wendy Rimel, part of the group’s organizing committee. “Despite three years of severe cuts to our school district’s budget, this makes me smile. We now have a straightforward way for the community to participate in making a difference, and provide Eagle County kids with the education they deserve.”

The school district says it’s looking at another $5.5 million in cuts in next year’s budget.

Some of it stems from cuts in state funding. Right now that’s expected to be between $160 and $200 per pupil. That’s up to $1.3 million in total per-pupil funding, said Phil Onofrio, the school district’s CFO.

The school district spent $1.6 million this year from its reserves. That money is not available next year, Onofrio says.

They’re looking at $2.6 million for additional long-term expenses, largely for costs like healthcare and retirement benefits – costs the school district cannot control, Onofrio said.

That’s $5.5 million.

That $5.5 million has to come from the school district’s general fund, projected to be $48 million next year.

A school district survey last month found 67.9 percent believe private funding for staff has a role in helping the school district bridge that funding gap.

“Simplifying this process is essential to raising money,” said Tessa Kirchner, school board member and Education Foundation for Eagle County volunteer. “With the Education Foundation of Eagle County in place as the district’s fundraising arm, everybody wins. Many, many other school districts throughout the nation have adopted this same partnership, with great results. We’re not reinventing the wheel.”

In its first few weeks, the group has raised more than $22,000.

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

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