School Views: What state budget release means for our local schools | VailDaily.com

School Views: What state budget release means for our local schools

Sandra Mutchler
Eagle County Schools

Each year, school districts across the state wait with bated breath for the release of the budget approved and adopted by legislators. The School Finance Act, contained within this budget, determines the majority of the operating revenue for school districts. Of course, we’re busy planning using projected funding long before the budget passes; it’s just with the actual numbers, we can adjust and solidify our plans.

Funding full-day kindergarten

The state legislature has funded full-day kindergarten beginning next year. For parents in our community with children entering kindergarten in the 2019-20 school year, this means that they won’t have to pay tuition for half of the day or find a preschool for half of the day.

It saves the community a little over half a million dollars in tuition. These funds can now be used for other purposes. For nonprofits, it means the funds they collected to assist with financially-disadvantaged families can also be spent on other vital services. For the school district, it means the additional three-quarters of a million used to subsidize the cost of full-day kindergarten can be invested in other services.

Funding full-day kindergarten also has an impact on our preschool services. Previously, full-day kindergarten used ECARE slots for students. With full funding, those slots will now serve 33 more children with full-day preschool.

School Finance Act

Back to The School Finance Act, the law uses a complex formula to arrive at each district’s per-pupil funding amount. This year, Eagle County Schools will receive $8,814 in per-pupil funding. This is still $669 per pupil less than prescribed by Amendment 23. More on this deduction in a minute.

The legislature subtracts this amount in a move invented during the 2010 recession to stabilize the state budget. The per-pupil funding amount multiplied by our projected enrollment yields the majority of our operating budget. The local property and specific ownership taxes are subtracted from this total, and the state pays the difference.

In round numbers, local property taxes and specific ownership taxes combine to form about $39.6 million of School Finance Act funding. The state contributes about $19.3 million, for an estimated amount of $58.9 million in funding.

3A Mill Levy

The voter-approved 3A Mill Levy, passed in 2016, is in addition to School Finance Act funding. For the 2019-20 school year, this locally-assessed investment will generate $8.7 million in operating revenue. Remember the $669 per pupil subtracted by the state? The local mill levy makes up for that loss, plus adds $574 per pupil in funding, adding a total of $1,243 in per-pupil funding.

The importance of this cannot be understated. When the recession hit in 2010, many progressive districts understood the mill levy override to be the “workaround” to give their students more resources and quickly moved to maximize their mill levy overrides. Consequently, districts like Boulder, Aspen, and Telluride began adding thousands of dollars in per-pupil funding each year to supplement state-level funding.

In Eagle County Schools, we’re still 84 employees below our pre-recession levels, but the local investment is helping us improve.

Our community is making a critical difference. These are your schools, serving your children, and you make the difference.

Sandra Mutchler is the chief operations officer for Eagle County Schools. Email her at sandra.mutchler@eagleschools.net