South Routt School District Superintendent Steve Jones has done his best to remain optimistic during the past several years as dwindling student enrollment and the resulting budget cuts have plagued his school system.
That optimism hasn't waned as the district again prepares for decreased enrollment and budget cuts for the 2004-05 school year.
"We're not in a crisis mode," Jones said Tuesday, less than one week after he presented the first draft of next year's budget to the South Routt School Board. "I'm not feeling negative about it, I'm feeling positive."
One year after cutting a principal and two teaching positions, the district is doing some "belt tightening" to keep cuts as far away from the instructional program as possible, Jones said.
He estimates the district's enrollment will decrease by five students next year and its revenue will decrease by $60,000. To keep a balanced budget, Jones and his administrative team are recommending several measures to reduce expenditures by $60,000.
While the district doesn't plan to eliminate any teaching positions, it will cut two support staff positions, one each at the secondary and elementary schools. The specific staff positions and personnel affected by the cuts haven't been determined, according to a memorandum from Jones to the District Improvement Team.
The district's coed baseball program also will be a casualty of the budget cuts. The program was canceled this year because of a lack of interest, Jones said.
One of the district's five bus routes will be eliminated, but its remaining four buses will adjust their routes so that the district can pick up students at every stop serviced this year.
The school system also won't hire students for custodial and landscaping work during the summer, as it has in past years, Jones said.
"We're looking at every facet of the budget," he said. "We're trying to make cuts away from the instructional program."
The cuts won't prevent the district from increasing funding to its alternative school, adding a full-time math paraprofessional at the high school and providing for the estimated 6 percent increase in Colorado Public Employee Retirement Association and health insurance costs.
The district also will retain the same amount of professional development opportunities for its staff.
This year, the district will take in an estimated $4.12 million in revenue, more than half of that total generated from property taxes and a mill levy override. For the 2004-05 school year, the district is anticipating revenues of $4.06 million, according to the draft budget prepared by Jones.
The $60,000 decrease in revenue is attributed largely to less money received for a tobacco settlement, the Read to Achieve program, vocational education, specific ownership taxes, a mineral lease and forest payments from the county.
The specific dollar amounts could vary once the General Assembly approves a final school finance bill. The district will present a second draft of the budget to the School Board in May and a final preliminary budget for approval in June. A final budget won't be approved until October, when the district will know exactly how many students it will receive funding for under the state's school finance formula.
Jones said the budget decisions were made by the administrative team and reviewed by the District Improvement Team.
Though enrollment has decreased by more than 50 students during the past five years, next year will mark the first time the district receives less revenue than the previous year, Jones said.
"This year is a little tougher," he said.
But he keeps things positive.
"I don't think we have a weaker instructional program. I think it may even be stronger. We have fewer kids, and each of those kids gets more attention. We'll be OK."