Superintendent presents school budget

Board members pleased with lack of cuts that directly affect students

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Despite a dip in funding from the Education Fund Board and mapping the financial future of the Steamboat Springs School District in a tumultuous economic year, a budget was drafted for the 2009-10 school year without major program or staff cuts.

Before her presentation of the more than $31 million budget, Superintendent Shalee Cunningham told board members that she was "really proud" of what she and Finance Director Dave Mellor would describe during a budget workshop Friday morning.

Cunningham said she met with the principals of the four schools and program directors to work with them directly to trim their budgets "line by line." She said that scrutiny of the budget allowed them to find "areas of the budget that could be easily eliminated that were far away from the classroom."

That will allow the district to provide step salary increases for teachers at a cost of $325,000, pending approval from the Collective Bargaining Team. Should the CBT not approve the step increases, Cunningham said the district would have to revisit the budget.

There were some staff cuts, including the elimination of two special education paraprofessionals each at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools and the middle school. One and a half full-time equivalent para positions were cut from the high school.

Cunningham said in the past, as students who required paraprofessional help graduated, those positions weren't reduced, and the district became overstaffed. She said each student who needs a para will have one.

Other staff cuts include a half-time physical education position at Strawberry Park, half-time custodial positions at both elementary schools and one custodian at the middle school. A Montessori aide also was cut.

Overtime for all employees was eliminated. The district also realized cost savings when the cost of its employee health insurance was reduced, which will be passed along to employees. Deductibles were reduced from $3,000 to $2,500, and the co-pays were reduced from $40 to $25.

A key staff addition included the hiring of a new middle school teacher to accommodate more than 100 new sixth-graders to the district next year. Cunningham said adding the teacher would allow the middle school to remain at the district policy of 25 students to one teacher.

And the district elected to foot the bill for Gifted and Talented and English Language Learner teachers, positions that previously were funded by gifts from the Fund Board.

School board members seemed pleased with the budget.

Board President Robin Crossan said Cunningham did what she promised when she was hired before last school year and reconstructed the budget from the ground up.

"As time-consuming as it is, the results are fantastic," Crossan told Cunningham. "I applaud you and your staff. Thank you very much."

Mellor said state statutes required the board to adopt the budget by June 30.

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