Hayden School Board paves the way for possible layoffs

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The survey is accessible online in English and Spanish here. Hard copies are also available at each district school and the administrative offices.

— The Hayden School Board approved a resolution Wednesday that would allow the district to legally lay off employees should that be necessary to address a projected budget shortfall of nearly $495,000 in the 2010-11 school year.

Board members approved a motion, 5-0, to declare a state of fiscal exigency. It was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

The district’s administration was advised to suggest to the School Board that it pass the resolution during a webinar Wednesday led by attorneys from the Colorado Association of School Boards. The webinar was the first in a series of three to assist districts as they prepare budgets for next school year.

Superintendent Greg Rock­hold said the district’s attorney also recommended that the board pass the resolution.

Fiscal exigency is defined by CASB as “any significant decline in the Board of Education’s ability to fund the operations of the district as a result of a decline in student enrollment, restrictions on revenues, increased costs or any other action, event or condition that may cause the district’s current or projected budget to be insufficient to adequately meet the district’s current or projected needs.”

Rockhold said a state of fiscal exigency had to be in place “to legally cover our bases” should the School Board choose to reduce staff or change programs that reduce staff. He said the district couldn’t enact its “Reduction in Force” policy without approving the resolution.

School Board President Bri­an Hoza said approving the resolution formally announces the position Hayden finds itself in for the 2010-11 school year. The projected shortfall — nearly 10 percent of the district’s more than $5 million general fund — is based on a 10 percent reduction in funding from the state, additional costs for employee health insurance and retirement benefits, employee salary step increases and decreased student enrollment.

Before the vote, School Board member Kurt Frentress asked whether it was necessary to declare a state of fiscal exigency Wednesday night or if it could be done instead before board members approved budget measures. He said he didn’t want to “panic people unreasonably.”

The district’s staff already is aware that layoffs could be possible in 2010-11, said Hayden Valley Elementary School Principal Rhonda Sweetser.

“I don’t think it’s a shock to the public or our staff that we’re there,” she said. “It’s a huge amount to cut. My staff is already stressed. To me, it’s the reality of where we’re at.”

The district’s administration said no decisions had been made about whether to reduce staff next school year.

The district will have a better idea after compiling results from a survey to engage community members in the budget process. Letters were sent to 1,200 community members and about 75 district staff members last week explaining why it was being conducted and how to complete it.

The survey is accessible online in English and Spanish at www.haydenschools.org by clicking the “Community Budget Survey” or “Encuesta sobre el Presupuesto” links at the top of the home page. Hard copies also are available at each district school and the administrative offices.

The deadline for completing the survey is Friday.

It asks questions in categories including demographics, instruction, extra-curricular, support services, administrative structure and alternative funding sources.

Hayden High School Prin­cipal Troy Zabel said initial returns were supportive of a mill levy override and a half-cent sales tax for education.

After compiling the survey results, the district’s budget committee will meet with staff and parent groups to get additional feedback, Zabel said. He said the results and feedback would be presented to the School Board during a work session scheduled for 5 p.m. March 10.

Board members are scheduled to consider preliminary budget measures for the 2010-11 school year at their March 17 meeting.

As of Wednesday, community members had completed 117 surveys, and district staff returned 32, Zabel said. He said the goal was to get 30 percent, or about 350 surveys, completed by the community.

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