Simms has plan to end deficit

Schools superintendent's recommendation likely to include personnel cuts

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Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Cyndy Simms will announce her recommendations to eliminate an estimated $500,000 deficit in the district's budget at tonight's School Board study session.

Simms, with collaboration from Finance Director Dale Mellor and the district's administrative team, has put together a list of budget-cutting measures in an attempt to equal district revenue with expenditures.

The recommendations will almost certainly include personnel cuts. Last week Simms said classroom teachers would not be among those positions eliminated and hinted that the district's six directors -- finance, technology, content standards, food services, facilities and transportation -- also will be safe from cuts.

Staff salary increases, rising insurance costs and a need for additional special education teachers are the primary factors behind the estimated deficit, according to a preliminary budget prepared by Mellor and distributed at the board's May 12 study session.

But the district's deficit could be closer to $300,000 or $400,000, depending on the competitive market adjustment used to calculate a portion of staff salary increases.

Simms said tonight's recommendations will be adjusted during the day after she receives more accurate salary increase percentages.

Simms' recommendations are intended to eliminate any deficit for the district's 2003-04 fiscal year budget. However, the School Board could decide a small deficit is acceptable if certain program or personnel cuts are deemed unnecessary or too detrimental to the district, Simms said.

The board must approve a preliminary budget by June 30.

Also on the study session agenda:

n A group of 2003 Steamboat Springs High School graduates will present to the board results from a 2002 SteamboatCARES survey. The survey dealt with myriad behavioral issues, including drug and alcohol use, sexual activity and assaults, suicide and family function. The group of students previously has presented the statistics and background information to fellow students, school faculty, community groups and area residents.

n Board member Tom Sharp will propose altered language to a board policy dealing with the distribution and posting of material on school grounds. The policy came under fire in December from parents concerned with the presence of a religious group at Steamboat Springs Middle School during lunch. Sharp's proposal is up for discussion, not approval, School Board President Paul Fisher said.

n The board will vote to approve a gift from the Education Fund Board for $5,000 toward an elementary Spanish program, which is being piloted for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools. The vote was tabled at the board's May 19 meeting because of Sharp's absence.

n Mellor will update the board on the North Routt Community Charter School's auditing process. The charter school drew the ire of the board earlier this year when the district was issued a qualified audit. BONDI & Co., the district's auditors, said the audit was qualified because the North Routt Community Charter School didn't provide the auditors with adequate information. Charter school Director Mary Bramer said the qualified audit was the result of miscommunication between the charter school, the district and the auditors.

n Fisher will present an update on the superintendent search process. Ray and Associates, the search firm hired by the district to find Simms' replacement, has received as many as 50 applications, Fisher said. Fisher said he will discuss the next steps in the process, which will include the formation of a group of district stakeholders to interview finalists.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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