School district still faces budget cuts

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Steamboat Springs School District officials are in the process of determining additional spending cuts to present a balanced preliminary budget to the School Board later this month.

A draft budget reviewed by the School Board on Monday revealed a projected deficit for the 2004-05 school year of $3,875. But that number will increase once the district determines the number of additional special-education teachers and staff it will need for next year, Superintendent Donna Howell and Finance Director Dale Mellor told the School Board.

"I'd like to present a balanced budget to the School Board at the (May 17) meeting," Howell said.

The deficit is significantly less than earlier this year, when Howell and Mellor projected $250,000 in expenditures over revenue. Howell responded by announcing that the district wouldn't bring back two elementary school teachers hired for the current school year using Education Fund revenue. The nonrenewal will save the district about $98,000, and district officials say the school system will be able to meet its class-size policies without the teachers. The salaries for the teachers were gifted to the School Board and only covered one year.

The district also plans to decrease the amount of money in each school's "white budget," which is used for discretionary items such as textbooks and other school and office supplies. School are permitted to retain white-budget funds not spent for the next school year. The cumulative carryover from unspent white budgets at district schools often exceeds $100,000 a year.

Next year, the district plans to eliminate $100,000 from the white budgets.

Those two cuts left the district with an estimated $52,000 deficit, which has decreased over the past couple of months with revised enrollment projections and finalized numbers from the state's school finance formula.

Mellor now projects an enrollment decline of five students, four less than what was predicted earlier this year. The primary reason for the increase is the Montessori pilot program, which is expected to bring at least four additional students into the district.

The state's school finance formula determines a per-pupil revenue amount for each district. For the 2004-05 school year, the district expects to receive about $7,150 per student. With other revenues added in, such as half-cent sales tax money and various grants and fees, per-pupil funding could approach $8,500.

State law mandates all School Boards adopt a preliminary budget in June of each year. School district fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30.

The School Board will adopt a finalized budget in October after the official enrollment count date passes.

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