Eagle County Schools’ district budget increases with boost in state funding | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools’ district budget increases with boost in state funding

Part of next the 2018-19 school district budget is voter-approved construction and renovation projects up and down the valley. This is a groundbreaking for the Red Canyon High School West campus on Spring Creek Road in Gypsum.

EAGLE — Local schools will have more money to spend on students in the upcoming year, while student numbers are projected to stay about the same.

The school board this week approved the district's 2018-19 budget to the tune of almost $150 million. That includes almost $70 million in voter-approved construction funding, as well as a $4.1 million increase to the general fund — the checkbook by which the school district conducts its day-to-day business — putting that fund at $81 million for the year.

The budget is a result of a year-long process. Like the rest of us, the school district can always use more money, but they're happy with it right now, said Kate Cocchiarella, school board president.

"The ship is headed in the right direction. We have processes in place to make sure that continues," Cocchiarella said.

“The ship is headed in the right direction. We have processes in place to make sure that continues.”Kate CocchiarellaSchool board president

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Student numbers steady

Student numbers are projected to remain steady, 6,894 across the district's 18 schools.

Under the new state funding package passed by state lawmakers last spring, per-pupil funding will increase $486, from $7,945 to $8,431.

Local property taxes generate 62 percent of the school district's budget.

Other funds come from state and federal sources, including vehicle ownership taxes and school equalization taxes.

In Eagle County, second-home owners paid as much as 60 percent of the county's residential property tax bill through the end of 2016, according to the Eagle County Assessor's Office.

Salaries up 4 percent

A 4 percent staff pay raise is built into the budget, an average of $2,228 annually, or about $186 per month.

The district added 9.5 full-time staff jobs across its 18 schools, including someone to help keep track of the bond money. Eagle County voters agreed in 2016 to let the district borrow $144 million to build and renovate schools up and down the valley.

Voters also approved an additional tax increase to raise $8 million per year for salaries.

That 4 percent raise follows a 14.5 percent salary increase over the last three budget cycles. However, those raises followed several years with no raises and districtwide job cuts when the economy tanked.

On the other side of that, district employees will be expected to pick up a larger share of their health insurance premiums, which are going up 8 percent. That could be an increase of as much as $660 per year for family coverage. Last year, the district absorbed all of the 10 percent increase to employees' health insurance premiums.

The district set aside $360,000 in the new budget to increase mental health services for students.

They'll also add two more school resource officers. That will put two full-time school resource officers in high schools — one each in Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain high schools. The additional officers also will increase their presence in middle and elementary schools.

The school district employs around 900 people, which makes the district one of Eagle County's largest employers. Vail Resorts has just more than 8,000 employees in Eagle County and Vail Health employs around 800 people, according to countywide employment data.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Budget Highlights

$81,046,321: Total general fund. That’s the checkbook through which the school district conducts its daily business.

$4,113,570: Up from last year.

$149,189,772: Total budget, including the Eagle County Charter Academy.

$68,846,399: Up from last year. Most of that is the building fund, from which comes the money for the voter-approved construction projects up and down the valley.

$1,640,000: Total in salary increases. That’s a 4 percent salary increase for those who qualify.

$2,228 annually, or $186 per month: Average salary increase.

$41,000: Starting teacher salary, not including benefits. No change from last year.

$55,700: Average teacher salary, not including benefits.

$8,431: Per-pupil funding for 2018-19.

$7,945: Per-pupil funding 2017-18.

$486: Increase per pupil.

6,894: Projected district-funded pupil count for 2018-19, the same as last year.