Eagle County student enrollment increases for new school year | VailDaily.com

Eagle County student enrollment increases for new school year

NWS H.S. starts 2 KA 09-21-09

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – More kids are attending the county’s schools this year than last, despite the slumping economy and local job losses.

Eagle County’s schools have 166 more students than last year, according to Wednesday’s head count.

That’s 5,823 students across 17 schools, up from 5,657 in 2010.

Colorado’s official count-the-school-kid day is Oct. 1.

The big winner was the new Homestake Peak School, a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school. They jumped 103 students, from 374 students to 477. Homestake Peak moved into a new facility, a $10.5 million remodel of the old Battle Mountain High School site in Eagle-Vail.

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy added fifth grade to its student body, and it’s up 49 students, from 90 to 139.

Adding a fifth grade attracted 17 more kids. The other 32 new VSSA students came from schools around the county, as well as schools and private ski academies around the state and country, said Geoff Grimmer, VSSA’s head of school.

VSSA is the only public school/ski academy in the U.S., and attracts students from all over Eagle County, and from around the country.

The only other public ski academies are in Austria, Norway and France, Grimmer said.

“We live in Vail, Colorado, and the community is passionate about skiing and education,” Grimmer said.

VSSA moved into its new facility for the new school year, the former Minturn Middle School building in Maloit Park.

“It’s a huge boost that Eagle County schools gave us a dedicated facility,” Grimmer said. “We’re excited to be part of the Eagle County School District.”

Numbers matter because Colorado’s schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, under Colorado’s 1994 Public School Finance Act.

So, if you take 5,823 kids and multiply it by Colorado’s per-pupil funding of $6,741, that’s $32,252,843 in state funding. Add a couple dedicated property taxes and other program revenue, the number increases to around $49 million that local schools get to spend on classroom instruction, and all that comes out of the $52 million general fund, say school district officials.

The rest of the school district’s $114 million budget is spent on line items like paying off bond debt ($25.5 million), transportation ($2.4 million), and medical expenses ($9.2 million), say district officials.

Eagle County’s school district has cut $9 million over the last two years, and most of it has to come from that $52 million general fund, say district officials. About 80 percent of the school district’s budget is spent on salaries and benefits, they say.

The school district is asking local voters for a tax increase – up to $6 million a year.

That $6 million would offset the cuts they’ve had to make, they say.

Most of the money for schools comes from property taxes and vehicle registration taxes.

That money goes to the state government, which distributes it to the state’s 178 school districts, based on the number of students in each of those districts.

The least any school district can in 2011-12 is $5,634,77, allotted in this year’s School Finance Act.

Other factors figure in, including a school district’s cost of living, personnel costs and the size of the district.

In Eagle County’s case, that equation puts per-pupil funding at $6,741.

If the local funding sources don’t raise enough money to hit that per-pupil funding mark, the state makes up the difference.

Except when the state doesn’t have the money, either.

In Eagle County, the state’s per-pupil funding dropped from $7,149 to $6,741, the amount of money state officials say they can come up with in the struggling economy.

Almost half of Colorado’s state budget is spent on education, $5.2 billion for 2011-12, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

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

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