Eagle County Schools student numbers down slightly | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools student numbers down slightly

Superintendent says district is down about 130 fewer students from what was originally estimated

Parents at Brush Creek Elementary School grab some memories as their daughters and sons start classes in August. Preliminary indicators show student numbers appear down slightly for the 2019-20 school year by about 130 students. That would mean $1.1 million less in state funding, but it's something the district plans for, officials say.
Eagle County Schools photo

EAGLE — Local schools will have more money to spend on students than last year, but not quite as much as they projected.

Colorado schools are funded per pupil, and so far it appears Eagle County Schools will have about 130 fewer students for the 2019-20 school year than originally thought, Superintendent Phil Qualman told the school board.

So far this year, 6,178 students are in public school classrooms. That does not include the Eagle County Charter Academy, Qualman explained, which is funded differently.

That’s about 130 students below projections. At $8,814 per pupil in state funding, that’s $1,145,820 for 2019-20, said Dan Dougherty, the school district’s communications chief.

The district’s financial department, which has won several national awards over the last few years, has several contingency plans for variations in student count, Dougherty said.

“So while disappointing, this doesn’t create a financial problem,” Dougherty said.

Student counting starts

The official student count actually began Tuesday on the first of the month. That count continues for several days and becomes official in early November.

And while that’s fine for most areas of Colorado, it can be a problem for resort counties.

The Vail Valley and other Colorado Central Rockies Resort Region communities see an influx of students in November and December when the resorts open for the ski season. But because they show up after the early October count, local schools don’t get state funding for them, Dougherty explained.

Where some of the money goes

In November 2016, Eagle County voters raised their own taxes to generate more than $8 million a year in increased school funding.

That’s not extra money. Most of it will pay for cost-of-living increases, as well as some other cost increases.

Among those are employee retirement benefits. State lawmakers require local school districts to annually contribute to an employee’s state-run retirement fund, known as the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, which is the substitute for Social Security for public employees. Teachers are required by state law to contribute a fixed percentage of their salary to the retirement trust funds, and employers also contribute a percentage of pay to the fund. Eagle County Schools currently contributes 21.5% of what a district employee makes annually to their retirement fund. The fund is heading to an annual cap of 22%.

The school district’s general fund — the checkbook by which it conducts its day-to-day business — is up slightly to $86,433,000. Schools spend 76% of the district’s general fund on salaries and benefits — $66,434,339 in 2019-20, according to the district’s budget.

The school district added 44 new teachers for the 2019-20 school year. Of those, 13 were hired at the increased starting salary level of $42,000.