School funding OK brings hope

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— Hayden School District Superintendent Scott Mader walked into his office the morning of Nov. 8 feeling happy about the election the day before.
Mader knew an amendment to the state's constitution boosting school funding had been approved. Voters across the state soundly supported Amendment 23, which will set aside one-third of 1 percent of the existing state income tax for education.
The amendment, also known as Full Funding of Public Education, will increase school funding by the inflation rate plus 1 percent each year for the next 10 years and by inflation each year after that.
The measure had voter support in Routt County, as 5,372 votes were cast in favor, compared to 3,838 against.
"This is the one we needed to improve education across the state," Mader said. "I am happy voters in the state had enough confidence in the school system and realized we needed this."
With the approval of the amendment, Mader is expecting the district to be able to spend more per pupil. Currently, the district has the ability to spend close to $6,000 per student from funds it receives from the state and that are generated from taxes.
Mader believes the amendment will help the district in two ways.
The first benefit will be to the district's budget. For this year's budget, the district had to make cuts because enrollment decreased by about 44 students from the year before.
Because of the loss in revenue caused by the enrollment decrease, the district had to use some of its reserves.
"This will be a real benefit for our district," Mader said of an increase in state funding. "We might not have to dip into our reserves as much for next year or we could have a balanced budget.
"We probably will still have to do some cost-saving measures, but this will help. Hopefully, our enrollment will start to level off."
This school year marked the second time in as many years that the district's enrollment declined.
Currently, the school district has an enrollment of 476 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Last year, the district had an enrollment of 520 students.
Another area Mader expects the extra revenue to help out in is the recruitment of teachers. He believes the district not only has to compete for teachers with other districts in Colorado but also other states.
"With the money, we can pump more money into attracting better teachers," Mader said. "This is a big boost for us."
Prior to the election, Mader had been monitoring the amendment's chance of being approved by keeping tabs on polls.
"I had a fairly good feeling it was going to pass," he said. "I was not totally surprised, but I was holding my breath."
Mader believes a major reason why voters approved the amendment is because of where the state's funding for education ranks in the nation.
"We are ranked on the lower end when it comes to state funding for education," he said. "It is time to catch up."
Opponents of the amendment worry the proposed formula to increase funding will eliminate the flexibility the General Assembly, and the governor may need to react to unforeseeable dips or growth in the state's economy, as well as unforeseen student enrollments.
The increased funding up to 5 percent a year will come from the state's general fund and must continue no matter what happens to the economy or student numbers.
Prior to the election, the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Hayden School Board endorsed the proposal.

To reach Gary E. Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail gsalazar@amigo.net

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