Eagle County Schools could cut 40 jobs | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools could cut 40 jobs

EAGLE, Colorado – Forty jobs are on the chopping block as local schools cut $5 million to bridge a budget gap, the Eagle County School District announced late Friday afternoon.

The Eagle County School District, along with every other Colorado school district, will get less money from the state government. For Eagle County’s schools, that means cutting $6.5 million from next year’s budget. To cover it, the local school district proposes to spend $5 million less next year and pull $1.5 million from its reserves.

Among the proposed cuts:

• 40 full time positions, $2.5 million.

• Across-the-board salary cuts accomplished through days off without pay, $1 million.

• Increased efficiencies, $1.5 million.

• Total cuts, $5 million.

• Money drawn from reserve funds, $1.5 million.

• Total, $6.5 million.

The school board will hold a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to go through the proposed spending cuts.

The staffing cuts will “result in higher class sizes and reduced elective choices.”

The announcement went out late Friday afternoon, and school district officials were unavailable for comment.

The school board had discussed asking Eagle County voters for a tax increase. That decision won’t have to be finalized until August.

Superintendent Dr. Sandra Smyser says 80 percent of the school district’s budget is spent on personnel.

School districts across the state are cutting spending because the state no longer has enough money to cover their losses in tax revenue, says a spokesman with the governor’s office.

State lawmakers are looking for $1 billion in cuts to bridge their own budget gap, Gov. John Hickenlooper said during a stop in Minturn Thursday afternoon.

In Colorado, kindergarten-12th grade education consumes 42 percent of the state’s general fund. Right now, the state is cutting funding by about $500 per student.

In Eagle County, that’s $6.5 million.

Schools are funded through a combination of property taxes, vehicle taxes and state funding, says Brooke Macke, communications director with the Eagle County School District.

Local property values have plummeted by as much as 30 percent in some parts of Eagle County, says Mark Chapin, Eagle County Assessor. That means state and local governments have less money to work with, including school districts.

At last count, there were 82 taxing entities in Eagle County.

“While property taxes are an element in school district funding, the direct cause of Eagle County schools’ revenue shortfall is due to the reduction in funding from the state,” Macke says.

In prior years, the state always covered shortfalls. Not this year; there’s no money, Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown said.

“K-12 education makes up 42 percent of the state’s budget,” Brown said. “When you’re looking at a billion dollar revenue shortfall, it’s not reasonable to think that some of those cuts won’t come from something that comprises almost half of the state’s budget.”

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