School District set to adopt budget

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The Steamboat Springs School Board is expected to approve a $16 million budget when it meets Monday for its regularly scheduled study session.

The budget, prepared by finance director Dale Mellor, will include numerous changes from the preliminary budget the School Board approved in June.

That budget, which included revenue and expenditures of about $15.9 million, has been updated to more accurately reflect anticipated revenues from state and federal sources and new expenditures such as classroom aides and two new high school programs.

"We had the budget pretty well set in June," Mellor said. "There's a lot of changes, but nothing was surprising. We knew they were coming."

The district's total general fund revenue is expected to be $16,055,100, of which $13,509,000 is allocated to the school system through the state's public school finance formula. Other sources of revenue include money from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund and state and federal sources.

According to budget documents, the district will spend $16,048,710 during the course of the 2004-05 school year. The end-of-year fund balance is expected to be $5,390.

As is typical with public school system budgets, salaries and benefits make up the majority of district spending. During the 2004-05 school year, the district anticipates spending nearly $12.5 million on its employees, according to budget sheets provided by Mellor.

Of that $12.5 million, about $1.05 million, or 8.4 percent, is for salaries and benefits for district administrators, including principals and department leaders.

The number of district administrators and the size of their salaries is a concern of the Steamboat Springs Education Association, the union that represents district teachers.

SSEA vice president Tom Fitzgerald said that increasing administrative salaries limits the amount of money the district can pay its teachers and support staff.

"It seems like administration is taken care of first and teachers and staff get what's left over," Fitzgerald said.

The district devotes more of its budget to employee salaries and benefits than most other districts, Superintendent Donna Howell said.

"Typically, a school budget is between 75 and 80 percent on salaries and benefits," Howell said. "I've not been in a setting where we've spent 87 percent on salaries and benefits."

This year, the district's salaries and benefits expenditures will equate to 87 percent of its total budget when the $773,000 generated through a voter-approved mill levy is included. The district is spending all of the $773,000 on salaries and benefits.

Howell also said she thinks current administration levels are appropriate, but she added that she will collect information during the next couple of months to compare district staffing with that of similar school systems.

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