Vail Valley schools to add more cops, counselors

State, local funding increases slightly, but so will costs, district officials say

Deputy Megan Heil with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office is one of two school resource officers in Eagle County schools, along with Dep. Tad Degen. The school district will add two more, as well as six more mental health counselors for the 2019-20 school year.
Daily file photo

By the numbers

$3.36 million: Total state funding 2019-20 increase over this year in Colorado School Finance Act funding.

$9,483: State funding per pupil revenue.

$669: Amount subtracted from that to offset funding shortfalls in previous years. That’s called the Budget Stabilization Factor, formerly called the Negative Factor.

$8,814: Total per pupil revenue through state funding, total funding minus the budget Stabilization Factor.

$377: Increase over last year’s $8,436 per pupil state funding.

Total per pupil funding in Eagle County

$8,014: Add that $8.7 million in funding to the per-pupil revenue, and the per-pupil funding increases by $1,200 per pupil to equal $10,014.

Full day kindergarten

$1.5 million: Funding for full-day kindergarten in Eagle County, a new program launched by the state legislature. Eagle County Schools already offers full-day kindergarten but has been offsetting some of the costs by providing scholarships and charging tuition. 

Local voter-approved funding

$8.7 million: 3A funding next year, up $200,000 from the previous year. 3A provided for additional funds to attract and retain, reduce class sizes/restore programs, funds preschool plus, Connect2Learn and supplements operating expenses maintenance and transportation.

Where Eagle County school funding comes from

$37.6 million: Property taxes

$2 million: Specific ownership, vehicle license fees

$19 million: State funding

$58.9 million: Colorado School Finance Act funding formula

Other resources are received outside of the School Finance Act that comes from State categorical funding, as well as some federal and other local revenues. 

EAGLE — Local schools will have a little more money next year, and some of those additional dollars will fund more mental health and security.

The school district will add six mental health counselors and two more school resource officers for the 2019-20 school year. The school board made the decision in the wake of the lockout around the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

Timing for the state funding increase became official earlier this week, around the time of this week’s deadly shooting at a Denver-area STEM school that killed one student dead and wounded eight.

The tragic irony was lost on no one.

“The need for safe schools continues to grow,” Superintendent Phil Qualman said during a school board meeting.

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The school district has done a great deal, increasing safety and security measures throughout the district thanks to voters increasing their own taxes to pay for it, school board members said.

“But we can do more,” Qualman said, adding that the school district will expand its relationship with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Right now local schools are home to two school resource officers, one based in Gypsum and another in Edwards. The agreement between the sheriff’s office and the school district will add two more.

Mental health counselors will be added at Red Canyon High School, Berry Creek Middle School and Gypsum Creek Middle School. With those additions, the district’s counseling staff will increase to 24.42 full-time positions.

“The local taxpayers can see how important their funding is,” Sandra Mutchler, the school district’s Chief Operations Officer said.

Where some of the money goes

In November 2016, Eagle County voters raised their own taxes to generate more than $8 million a year in increased school funding. That tax increase, which was known as question 3A on local ballots, will generate an additional $200,000 in 2019-20, bringing the total to $8.7 million.

That’s not extra money. Most of it will pay for a cost-of-living increase for teachers and administrators, as well as some other cost increases.

Among those are employee retirement benefits. State lawmakers require local school districts to annually contribute 20.15% of an employee’s salary to the state retirement fund. That’s increasing to 20.4% in July, headed toward a cap of 22%.

The district will spend $539,000 to add seven more teachers next school year because of increasing enrollment. They’re projecting 98 more students for next year, said Sandra Mutchler, the school district’s chief operations officer. On the other hand, the central office will shrink slightly with one less assistant superintendent. A position left vacant by Qualman’s promotion to superintendent will not be filled.

Full-day kindergarten costs

District wide full-day kindergarten will add a net $1.2 million to the school district’s 2019-20 budget. That $1.2 million comes from the  $185 million state lawmakers budgeted to cover the annual cost of full-day kindergarten statewide. Right now, about 80 percent of Colorado students attend full-day kindergarten.

Like most school districts, Eagle County schools already offered full-day kindergarten. And like most districts, the increased cost was partially covered by tuition ($513,000) and the Vail Valley Foundation ($65,000). State funding now makes those unnecessary.

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