Vail Valley schools add officers, counselors, raises for 2019-2020 school year |

Vail Valley schools add officers, counselors, raises for 2019-2020 school year

Mental health counselors, school resource officers, teacher pay raises highlight budget changes

Eagle County Sheriff's Deputy Megan Heil is one of the school resource officers serving in local schools.
Daily file photo
By the numbers
  • $129,590,768: Total Budget
  • $87,358,706: General Fund, the checkbook through which school conducts its day-to-day business.
  • $66,434,339: Spent from the general fund on salaries and benefits.
  • 76%: Percent of general fund budget spent on salaries and benefits.
  • 2.3%: Cost-Of-Living increase for 2019-2020
  • $8,814: State per-pupil funding under the formula in Colorado's 1994 School Finance Act, up $378.
Source: Eagle County schools

EAGLE — Local schools will spend more on counselors, resource officers and raises during this school year.

Eagle County Schools added six mental health counselors, the district will add two more school resource officers, and raised pay – 5.5% for teachers and 4.25% for the rest of the staff, according to the district’s 2019-20 budget book.

More school resource officers

Until this year, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office had two school resource officers in Edwards and the eastern end of the valley and another in Gypsum as part of that community’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office. The Avon, Eagle and Vail police departments also staff school resource officers for their communities as part of their other duties.

The Sheriff’s Office is requesting one more resource officer for the 2020-21 school year, Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said.

10-fold economic benefit

Between staffing, vehicles, training and gear, the school district’s share is $60,000 for each school resource officer through the Sheriff’s Office, said Dan Dougherty with Eagle County Schools.

The program’s benefits offset its costs by 10-fold, van Beek said.

“Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on school resource officers through a well-run program, the economic payoff is more than $10 in economic and social benefits, as well as feelings of increased safety among students and staff,” van Beek said.

The National Association of School Resource Officers came to that finding noting the officers’ duties include:

  • Preventing and minimizing property damage in schools and surrounding areas.
  • Reducing the likelihood that a student will end up with a criminal record because schools and law enforcement working together can intervene early.
  • Preventing student injuries and even death due to violence.
  • Reducing the need for schools to call 911.

“It’s building bridges of community,” van Beek said.

More than 17,000 school resource officers serve schools around the country, the National Association of School Resource Officers said.

The school district also added mental health counselors at Red Canyon High School, Berry Creek Middle School and Gypsum Creek Middle School, increasing the school district’s counseling staff to 24.42 full-time positions.

Thanks to 3A

Some of the increased security and salary money started flowing when, in 2016, Eagle County voters increased their own taxes by more than $8 million a year to help shore up local school funding.

The school district raised salaries 10% in 2016 when voters approved the money, the first pay raise since 2009 when the recession forced the district to cut 90 jobs.

For 2019-2020, the school district increased starting pay for first-year teachers to $42,000 ($58,000 total employment package). That salary increase goes hand-in-hand with Colorado lawmakers mandating that school districts increase contributions to their teachers’ retirement fund to 22% of a teacher’s annual salary.

Like most employers, Eagle County schools will also spend more on health benefits, $750,400 more for the 2019-2020 school year.

You can only help yourself

Colorado schools are funded through a combination of property taxes, ownership taxes, and state and federal revenue.

A statewide proposal, Proposition CC, would allow the state to keep taxes collected beyond Colorado’s TABOR limits, and spend the money for transportation, public schools and higher education. It could mean $800,000 in one-time money for Eagle County schools, Eagle Valley Schools Superintendent Philip Qualman said, but could not be used for ongoing expenses.

The only way to increase revenue for public schools is for voters to approve a tax rate increase, as Eagle County voters did in 2016.

While Eagle County schools still have some room under that tax cap, communities like Boulder Valley and Aspen have maxed their tax rates, Qualman said.

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