Public invited to school budget meeting

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Parents, community members and anyone else who wants to better understand the Steamboat Springs School District's budget are invited to a meeting tonight.

School District officials will give an update on enrollment estimates and will explain how enrollment affects the district's budget according to the state finance formula. The meeting will include a question-and-answer period.

The meeting was organized as a response to confusion about the school district's budget, Super--intendent Donna Howell said.

In previous years, the school district held similar meetings for staff, said Dale Mellor, director of finance and operations. The last such meeting was four years ago.

District officials are expecting a good turnout for the meeting.

According to preliminary estimates, the Steamboat Springs School District is up 31 funded students from projected counts for this school year, to 1,927.5 students. Those counts could change in coming weeks as schools firm up their enrollments.

Kindergartners attend halftime and are funded halftime, and students in other grades sometimes attend school part-time.

The additional 31 funded students result in $192,700 over what was budgeted, Mellor said. Those additional funds, plus other unanticipated revenues, will total almost $260,000, according to draft budget changes.

But, the school district has additional expenditures, including $100,500 for two new middle school teachers to respond to higher-than-expected enrollment of eighth-graders, $25,000 for an additional half-time kindergarten teacher and almost $60,000 for four additional aides, according to budget changes calculated in recent weeks.

Also, enrollment of students classified as English Language Learners has increased from 37 students last school year to 53 students, according to recent estimates. The school district is planning to hire a part-time ESL aide, which could cost about $12,500.

Those additional costs and revenues added to the $41,000 deficit projected at the end of the 2004-05 school year, result in a deficit of almost $130,000.

Howell plans to ask the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board, which administers the city's half-cent sales tax for education, for funding for one middle school teacher, four aides and possibly the halftime ESL aide.

The public meeting is at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

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