State House passes school-friendly budget bill
DENVER, Colorado – Local schools will have another $1 million to work with if this year’s School Finance Act becomes law.
Colorado’s state House of Representatives passed a budget bill Thursday morning that holds the line on per-pupil funding. That means the $5.5 million cuts local schools were facing are down to $4.5 million.
Teachers and other staff members who’ve been fired or cut to part-time won’t see any immediate relief, district officials said. They’ll know exactly how much money they have to work with when they get a final student count when school starts later this summer.
The school district says it’s looking at another $5.5 million in budget cuts next year. That comes on the heels of $9 million over the last two years, the district said.
Of that $5.5 million in cuts for next year, the school district has identified $5.1 million, through a 1.5 percent pay cut, job cuts, transportation and maintenance cuts, and benefit reductions.
“If the state education budget increase of $57.2 million becomes a reality, our local best case scenario could mean $936,660 higher than we have been projecting,” said Brooke Macke, the school district’s communications director.
They’re cautiously optimistic and still watching their bottom line.
If they lost eight kids at each of the district’s 18 schools, with per-pupil revenue set at $6,400, they would not see any of that $936,660, Macke said.
“Reductions for the 2012-13 school year have already been made, and we will not be able to backfill any of those reductions until the School Finance Act has passed and student count is finalized in the fall,” Macke said.
As Eagle County schools made their latest round of layoffs and budget cuts, the district’s administrators were calculating a per-pupil funding cut between $160 and $200 per student, around $1 million. The state’s portion of funding Eagle County’s schools comes in at $6,741 per pupil.
If the per-pupil funding remains at this year’s levels, that’s about $1 million in cuts the school district won’t have to make – reducing the pain to $4.5 million.
The school district spent $1.6 million this year from its reserves. That money is not available next year, said Phil Onofrio, the school district’s CFO.
They’re looking at $2.6 million for additional long-term expenses and increases, largely for costs like healthcare benefits and retirements.
K-12 education consumes about 42 percent of Colorado’s state budget.
Colorado’s schools are funded through a combination of property taxes, vehicle taxes and state funding.
The Eagle County school district gets around 36 percent of your property tax dollar in Eagle County, according to the Eagle County Treasurer’s office.
This year’s budget bill started in the House, which passed it 64-1 Thursday morning. It now goes to the state Senate.
Inside that budget package is House Bill 1345, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, which proposed no cuts for public education funding. Massey said it keeps a promise by the Republican-controlled House.
Massey’s bill added $57 million to education funding, and that maintains next year’s per-pupil funding at this year’s levels.
The Colorado Association of School Boards called it “Massey Magic” in a newsletter last week.
“Once again, Rep. Tom Massey seems to have pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat for the benefit of K-12 public education,” the newsletter said.
The House budget exceeds Gov. Hickenlooper’s education funding and maintains a balance of $100 million fund balance.
“The success of tomorrow depends on the youth of today. An investment in our education is vital for the prosperity of Colorado,” Massey said.
The House budget also maintains a property tax exemption for senior citizens and increases funding for the old age pension program and dental services for seniors.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.