Steamboat Springs School District expects more revenue in budget next school year

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— The first draft of the Steamboat Springs School District's 2013-14 budget was presented to the School Board on Monday along with some good news that has been absent from recent budget cycles:

For the first time in five years, the district anticipates it will receive more state revenue for each of its students, not less.

Because of the improving revenue projections, the district is not considering any major cuts to its programs or staffing. Instead, much of Monday's discussion focused on possible enhancements to the budget, including the possible addition of new staff positions at the district's two elementary schools to help alleviate larger class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

“We need to focus some of our resources there,” board member Denise Connelly said, a notion shared by a majority of the board members.

Board members also asked district officials to come back with a list of all of the enhancement packages that are being requested by the district's schools and programs.

Although the budget picture for the school district is rosier than it has been in recent years, the district still must divert some of its revenue gains to increases in health insurance costs and the contributions to employee public pension funds. It also plans to make some changes that are poised to have a financial impact on its students and their parents.

Fee increases

To more equitably fund all of its sports programs next school year and cover a $35,000 transportation shortfall, the district is proposing to raise sports participation fees, reduce its cheerleading program to one season, add a $10 class sponsorship fee for high school students and cut a football coaching position.

The boys lacrosse program and the ski team also would be asked to cover the cost of their coaches' salaries.

District officials said the changes together would generate an estimated $42,000 in revenue, and the district would pay the remaining $28,000 that is needed to mend the transportation shortfall and end the tiered system of sports funding.

If the budget is passed next month with the proposed changes to the athletics programs, participation for a student’s first sport would cost $180, and each additional sport would cost $160.

The family maximum that currently prevents parents from paying more than $350 in participation fees for their student-athletes would be eliminated.

Board members were mostly receptive to the proposed changes.

Although the athletics program budget represents about 3 percent of the school district's entire operating budget, it has attracted some of the most public attention this budget cycle.

Balancing the budget

Superintendent Brad Meeks said the district still is working to finalize the budget proposal and also is considering making about $46,000 in reductions from the budgets for its central office, gifted and talented, nursing and transportation programs.

The programs were selected for potential reductions because their budgets were ranked lowest by the District Accountability Committee that is made up of teachers, parents and administrators.

The draft of next year's budget assumes a $210,000 deficit that district officials said could be reduced through cuts or absorbed by the district's fund balance that is projected to equal $7.1 million.

The deficit stems from the funding of a two-year, $1 million pay raise plan approved by the School Board in June that is being covered by the fund balance.

Other meeting highlights:

-A recent polling of 37 Steamboat Springs Rotarians revealed their top three priorities of the district, in order, were small class sizes, technology and all-day kindergarten. The group recently was asked to choose three priorities out of a list of 10 that also included such items as transportation and busing needs, the district's athletics program and capital construction projects. The district's athletics program and its elementary school Spanish program tied for the lowest-rated priorities, according to the results of the Rotary poll.

-Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Michele Miller said there are 84 kindergartners enrolled at her campus for next school year. That's nearly twice as many as the 46 who are enrolled for the program at Strawberry Park. School Board members pondered whether the district needs to look at the attendance boundaries for the two schools in the future because of the discrepancy. Eight kindergartners have been enrolled from outside of the school district's boundaries.

-The board voted unanimously to approve the contracts for the district’s administrators and directors.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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