District budgets nearly $16M

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The Steamboat Springs School Board approved a balanced, preliminary budget for the 2004-05 school year at its meeting Monday. A final budget won't be approved until October, when the district knows exactly how many students are enrolled and how much money it will receive from the state's school finance formula.

But district Finance Director Dale Mellor doesn't expect the bottom line to change much come fall. Mellor said the preliminary budget is one of the most precise he's put together during his time with the district. He credited Superintendent Donna Howell's involvement in the budgeting process.

Still, total revenues could vary depending on the official pupil count in October. State public schools receive money on a per-pupil basis. The district is predicting a decrease of only a 0.2-funded student for the next school year.

Total general fund revenue is anticipated to be $15.96 million, of which $13.5 million comes from the state's finance formula. A majority of the district's revenue is generated through property taxes.

The 1,900-student school system anticipates spending all but $370 of the revenue. Expenditures include average employee salary increases of 3 percent and a decrease in employee health insurance costs of 2.59 percent, according to budget materials presented to the School Board. The district will spend 80 percent of its general fund revenues on salaries and benefits in addition to 100 percent of the $773,000 cost of living adjustment voters approved several years ago.

Several programs were scaled back to balance the 2004-05 budget, including the "white budgets" for materials used by each school. The salaries of two teachers hired for the 2003-04 school year using Education Fund Board money weren't retained, resulting in a savings of about $98,000.

The district looked for cost savings primarily because it will receive $400,000 less from the Fund Board than it did this school year, Mellor said. The $400,000 was used to pay for the now-defunct pay-for-performance bonus compensation system for district employees.

Though the system wasn't in place during the 2003-04 school year, the Fund Board money was part of this year's budget because district officials had to wait until last August to pay the bonuses earned by employees during the 2002-03 school year, Mellor said.

The school fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30 of each year. Colorado Student Assessment Program test results, which were a main factor in determining staff bonuses, weren't received until last August and thus were part of the 2003-04 budget.


-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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