By Ethan Robinson
RE-1 Valley’s school district funding percentages, 1989 and 2015
Last month, the RE-1 Valley Board of Education declared a “fiscal exigency,” meaning that the district is under distress, being unable to financially meet the current budget’s requirements. In an attempt to solve this issue, the board decided in a vote to cut two full-time teaching positions as well as cut certain programs within the district. These measures will reportedly save the district roughly $124,000. This amount is more because it is the additional cuts, as well as the teaching positions that were part of the exigency action, the total amount is $260,000
In short, the district is spending more than they are receiving. As outlined in a presentation conveyed by Superintendent Jan DeLay, 65% of the school district’s finances are funded by the state, and 35% by the local community. However, the state’s 65% comes from a budget enacted in 1994, making it greatly outdated for the current times of 2016 (not to mention that Colorado is far below the US average for per pupil spending). This outdated budget has forced the district to tap more and more into its reserve finances to fund the array of programs and positions. Nonetheless, DeLay has asserted that although we are a “healthy district” with a good supply in reserve, we “cannot continue on this course much longer.”
Additional issues that render the budget outdated, as outlined by the school board presentation pg. 5
–Gradual enrollment decline, 644 (smaller families, decline in area population, school choice options) 66 students on (bus) route in 1999, same route only has one student (added to another bus route) in 2016. Farm families growing up and leaving.
–Increase in at-risk student population by more than 400 students
–Dramatic increase in unfunded mandates, reporting, and regulations, much that include use of technology.
–Increased costs (healthcare, retirement, transportation).
In terms of the programs, DeLay emphasizes “redefining” them rather than “cutting,” and that it is the school district’s genuine intention to do so. Technology for instance will be a large factor in this “redefinition,” providing alternative options all meant to, as DeLay assures, provide more options for the student body. Athletics, student clubs and organizations should have no worry, but still, a few teaching positions will be cut, and several programs will have to be adapted for next year. DeLay stresses that the district will try to not let this affect the student body and their learning as much as possible, as this is rather a necessary, though difficult, act and not something that the district itself wants to do. This has all merely been subject to ill circumstances, and so new-found attempts will be made to alleviate them.
These alleviations bring hopeful alternatives on the rise as well. As DeLay informs that the area has already looked to local community support for help, “all Front-Range Districts, along with Holyoke and Yuma, except Greeley, have passed overrides in the past five years to support strong local schools.” So rest assured, RE-1 Valley is trying to increase its local funding, but it can’t succeed on that alone. When questioned whether the state of Colorado will produce new legislation calling for a new and up-to-date budget and better financial support, DeLay states that is all, “in the hands of the voters.”
Additional Cost Cutting Measures, as outlined by the school board presentation pg. 9
–Consolidation of schools
–Closing of alternative school
–Cut in athletics
–Cut in teaching staff
–Cut in support staff
–Deferred school bus replacement
–Energy Savings contract that included guaranteed savings
–Alignment and organization of online resources rather than textbook purchases
–Cessation of extra duty stipends for work completed during the work day
–Water services (drinking and soft water) cancelled with exception of Early Childhood program (required for preschool licensing)
Additional Strengthening Strategies, as outlined by the school board presentation pg. 10
–Safety Structure Enhancements at each building
–Blended Learning Online Program
–Career Tech Ed Enhancements
–Environmental Improvements with Energy plan (heating, controls, building envelope)
–Increased Concurrent Enrollment with NJC
–Small class sizes
**The superintendent would like to clarify that the tax for education under the Amendment for recreational marijuana, is not easily accessible or useful for the district’s situation. The amendment requires funds to only be accessed through competitive grants, which also require a 45% match in the district’s funds, and all must be spent only on construction (building new schools).**