Oak Creek Sen. Al White painted a grim picture for K-12 education in the 2011-12 state budget.
White, a Hayden Republican, told the South Routt School Board on Thursday night that the Colorado General Assembly is estimating a $900 million shortfall in next year’s state budget based on losing one-time funding, such as federal stimulus dollars, and transfers.
To help plug a $1.5 billion budget deficit last year, the state cut K-12 education by $260 million. But unlike last year, when K-12 education represented 43 percent of the state general fund, White said it would increase to 45.6 percent next year.
“There’s no way we can come up with $900 million of shortfall without tapping into that 46 percent,” he said. “It’s going to be that much or more, $260 million, I would guess.”
Compounding future K-12 cuts is another possible rescission of state funding this year. Colorado school districts were told to keep in reserve a total of $110 million during the 2009-10 school year just in case the state government needed to help plug a budget deficit. It did, representing the first chunk of the $260 million cut.
South Routt’s share of the rescission was $38,000.
White said he would have a better idea whether the state would take back funding this year after Monday, when the Joint Budget Committee, of which he is a member, receives the second-quarter state revenue forecast. The size of the deficit could determine whether the state will rescind funding for K-12 schools this year.
Other looming issues that could affect K-12 funding are Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, tax-slashing ballot measures that voters will consider in November.
The approval of Amendment 61 would eliminate the state’s interest-free loan program. The program allows South Routt and other school districts to pay staff salaries and other bills until their primary revenue source, property taxes, are remitted in the spring.
The Colorado State Treasurer’s Office has suspended the interest-free loan program, creating a short-term cash flow issue for South Routt.
The district has asked for an advance of $436,500, a portion of its property tax revenue from Routt County. The district made the initial request to the Routt County Board of Commissioners earlier this week. Commissioners took no action but scheduled another meeting with the district Monday.
South Routt, through the Colorado Department of Education, also will request the same amount Monday from the state. Superintendent Scott Mader will go to Denver to meet with the Joint Budget Committee.
If either of those requests are denied, Mader said the district likely would have to borrow $200,000 to $300,000 from a bank. The district also is taking steps to get a $2.5 million certificate of participation in the event that Amendment 61 passes.
School Board President Tim Corrigan asked White whether he had taken a public position on the three ballot initiatives.
“You know what the contingency for 60, 61 and 101 is? There isn’t one. Move to Wyoming,” White said. “My position is hell no. No way.”
In other action:
■ School Board members gave Vickie Clark, director of the Routt County Department of Human Services, a standing ovation and presented her with a plaque in recognition for her “outstanding contribution to lives of Soroco students.”
■ Soroco High School Principal Dennis Alt said Clark obtained a American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant intended to provide job preparedness funding for people at 200 percent of the poverty line or less.
Alt said the $26,000 grant provided funding to send 22 students on an overnight visit to four schools and eight seminars about preparing for college. He said there was enough funding left over to provide a Class of 2010 high school graduate with a laptop computer, $2,500 worth of school supplies and a year college tuition.
“It definitely took one student out of poverty and gave them the opportunity to succeed,” Alt said.
■ School Board members heard from Russ Garrity, a community member who is heading up the “Improve Soroco Schools” committee, the group campaigning for South Routt’s mill levy override to generate about $352,000.
Garrity said public meetings have been scheduled for Sept. 30 at South Routt Elementary School in Yampa; Oct. 7 at the District Administrative Offices in Oak Creek; and Oct. 14 at the Stagecoach Fire House. All meetings are set to begin at 7 p.m.
Garrity said members of the committee also would hand out information from 7 a.m. to noon Oct. 16 in Oak Creek and Yampa. He said the locations hadn’t been determined but likely would be at the post office or grocery store.