Board approves $350K in cuts

Few changes made to Simms' recommendations

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— The Steamboat Springs Board of Education voted Monday night to keep the Strawberry Park bus route and reduce by half proposed increases to high school athletics fees for both primary sports and privately-funded sports.

The moves were part of the School Board's legal obligation to approve a preliminary budget by June 30.

The School Board, facing a projected 2003-04 district deficit of $341,000, heard for the second time in as many weeks Superintendent Cyndy Simms' budget-cutting recommendations.

Simms' updated list of proposed reductions was $374,000, approximately $33,000 more than what was needed to establish a zero deficit for the school district. The result was that the School Board had to decide which budget items on Simms' chopping block most deserved funding.

One of those items was the Strawberry Park bus route, which if eliminated would save the district $9,000, according to Simms' list.

Several parents of students who live on the bus route questioned the justification and the actual cost benefit of cutting the route, which they said will serve up to 19 students next year.

The route was selected because it serves the least amount of district students and because those students live a relatively short distance from district schools, Simms said.

School Board member Tom Sharp said he was bothered that some of Simms' recommendations, including elimination of the Strawberry Park bus route, would cost parents more money in order to save the district money.

Other board members agreed. They voted 4-1 to maintain the bus route. Also altered on Simms' list of recommendations were two proposals to increase district revenue by a total of $30,000.

The first called for an increase in athletic participation fees to help fund the cost of a district athletic director and athletic director secretary. The second sought to charge privately-funded high school sports $15,000 to fund one-third of the athletic director and athletic director secretary positions.

The district, which has nine privately-funded sports, agreed several years ago to allow the sports only if they were completely self-funded. Over the years, the district has partially subsidized those sports by providing athletic fields and facilities as well as the services of the athletic director and his or her secretary at no charge, Simms said.

In the spirit of that initial agreement, it's only fair for the district to ask privately funded sports to live up to their end of the bargain, Simms said.

The School Board responded by voting to increase athletic participation fees and charge privately funded sports for some of the costs of an athletic director and secretary but only at half the rate recommended by Simms.

In total, the two added sources of revenue will net $15,000 for the district, not the $30,000 Simms suggested.

Updated budget cuts approved by the board included eliminating administrator pay for performance, which will save $20,000. This recommendation was not part of Simms' June 2 list of cuts. A recommendation to reduce the amount of general revenue spent on bus replacement from $40,000 to $20,000 also was approved.

The additional $20,000 will come from capital reserves. Simms' budget reduction recommendations also included $49,000 in increased revenue from an Education Fund Board gift to increase its contribution to smaller district class sizes. The money, however, can't be gifted to the School Board until it is approved on the second reading by the Fund Board.

It is unclear whether the funding request will be brought before the Fund Board for a second reading. Based on a straw vote conducted at the last Fund Board meeting, the $49,000 request would be approved and available to be gifted to the school district.

By approving - with the aforementioned changes - Simms' list of budget reductions, the School Board effectively approved a preliminary 2003-04 budget without any deficit. However, an official budget won't be approved until October, when actual district enrollment, and thus revenue, is known.

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