School funds in great shape, says official |

School funds in great shape, says official

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE ” With plenty of money in the savings account and bond money taking care of big construction projects, Eagle County Schools are in great financial shape, says Phil Onofrio, the new chief financial officer for the district.

The 2007-2008 school budget shows that the district has about $11.2 million in reserve funds, which is nearly three times more than what is required.

“That’s the district’s savings account, that’s what we have for unexpected problems,” Onofrio said. “It’s a very healthy reserve. Karen Strakbein (the former chief financial officer) did an excellent job maintaining the financial health of this district.”

Eagle County’s reserve is appropriate for a school its size, Onofrio said, but it could be argued that it needs some trimming. That’s for the school board and the public to decide, he said.

“My personal opinion is we could afford to spend some of it if we have the right projects,” Onofrio said. “But the board has to determine if it’s the right thing, which essentially means it’s a community decision.”

When it comes to school programs and staff, the district won’t be making any major cuts or changes, and everything the schools offered last year will still be here this year, Onofrio said.

The district is getting more money per student this year, about a 4.6 increase over last year, but that’s a normal increase, he said.

Still new at the job, Onofrio said the cost of mountain town construction shocked him a bit. But, things are looking good with the bond money, he said.

Voters in 2006 approved a $128 million bond for new schools, technology upgrades and energy efficiency upgrades.

The district knows how much money is needed to build June Creek Elementary, and they’re getting closer to a solid estimate for the new Battle Mountain High School and renovations for Eagle Valley High School.

“We think with our current estimates that we’ll be on budget and able to complete everything we promised voters, and maybe a little more,” Onofrio said. “We’re trying to get both high schools to roughly the same place so that all kids have an equal shot at a good education.”

One of Onofrio’s biggest goals for the year is learning more about the Teacher Advancement Program, known as TAP, and improving it.

“The philosophy behind it is a good one, to find the best teachers and reward them, but the execution of it is probably imperfect, and we’ll find ways to make it better,” Onofrio said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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