Eagle County locals step up for schools | VailDaily.com

Eagle County locals step up for schools

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – A local group is trying to take some of the sting out of the school district’s budget cuts.

The Education Foundation of Eagle County launched last week after the Eagle County school district announced it faces another round of budget cuts that could cost up to 100 jobs.

The group is asking parents, businesses and community members to donate the tax dollars they would have paid if the school district’s proposed property tax increase had passed in November, says Tessa Kirchner, school board member and EFEC board member.

The immediate goal of the group is to raise capital to mitigate districtwide budget cuts, Kirchner said.

“It’s a great group of people who are taking a new approach to this problem,” Kirchner said. “We saw this opportunity after 3B failed to take that passion and energy and make it part of the solution.”

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The school board faces another $5.5 million in cuts from next year’s budget – a combination of state funding reductions and increasing costs. That $5.5 million comes on the heels of $9 million in cuts over the last two years – $14.5 million total.

The school district’s proposed property tax increase would have raised $6 million a year.

“When it failed we were disappointed, but people were still passion about it,” Kirchner said. “We started having some meetings and talking to people. We decided to get going and see what’s possible.”

The EFEC came together after Eagle County voters, along with voters across most of Colorado, rejected a proposed property tax increase.

Days later, some of those who had campaigned for the local tax increase asked people who had supported it to donate the amount of money they would have been taxed.

They’ve been to the last two school board meetings, where board members are slogging through a long list of ways to cut the budget.

Raising private money is one of the many possible solutions being considered.

The school board is looking at consolidating some elementary schools in the eastern end of the valley.

The school board is also considering shortening the school year, increasing unpaid furlough days for teachers and staff, reducing benefits and cutting non-core classes such as art, music and physical education.

In a marathon meeting so packed last week that it had to be moved to the Eagle County building, the school board refused to close Red Canyon High School and the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.

“The top priority of EFEC is to maintain an excellent learning experience for all students,” Kirchner said. “The long-term goal is to establish a viable foundation that allows advocacy for and retention of qualified teachers in front of students through programs, grants and sponsorships.”

The ECEF has no overhead, and plans call for any money raised to be distributed equally to schools where it’s needed.

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

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