School board adopts $31.1 million total budget for 2014-15

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— After months of poring over numbers in meetings, holding community forums and waiting on the Colorado Legislature to wrap up and for the Education Fund Board to make its final awards, the Steamboat Springs School Board has adopted the budget for the 2014-15 school year.

During Monday night’s busy board meeting, the five board members unanimously approved a new budget that predicts $31,168,830 in total revenue for next school year, including a $23.7 million general fund, which according to the budget summary is $1.4 million more than the 2013-14 school year. The bulk of the general fund — 78 percent or $18.5 million — comes from local property taxes and state equalization funds.

State equalization funding is increasing by more than $930,000, which is attributed to a significant decrease in assessed valuation of property in the Steamboat district boundaries, according to the budget summary. As a result, the state is required to fund a larger percentage of the finance formula.

Roughly 85 percent of general fund expenditures is dedicated to district salaries and benefits, the report states, with elementary instruction receiving the most ($5.5 million, up from about $5.1 million), followed by high school instruction ($3.75 million, up from about $3.5 million) and middle school instruction, which totals about $2.8 million.

Because of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association and health insurance costs, payroll expenses are expected to increase by about $1.2 million to a total of $19,303,760 in 2014-15.

Administration and director contracts

Two weeks after the board unanimously approved a new administrative salary system, it also presented contracts to its 16 administrators and directors Monday night.

The specific salary figures on those contracts, however, currently serve as placeholders. As discussed during the May 19 meeting, when the salary system and schedule was voted on, salary figures for administrative positions are to be discussed during the June 16 board meeting, the final one of the school year.

“They’re basically contracts with the 2013-14 numbers,” Superintendent Brad Meeks said Monday. “The June 16 meeting will include the compensation part of it. There are some adjustments we need to make to the salary schedule.”

Meeks noted he and the board wanted to have the contracts ready for the administrators this week based on “comfort reasons.”

One minor adjustment made in the round of contracts was to high school Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe’s duties.

In 2014-15, DeWolfe will serve as an assistant principal in addition to his current job organizing activities and athletics. The move, Meeks said, was made in part to help with the growing responsibilities for the campus’ administrators, such as helping with educator effectiveness evaluations.

World languages update

The district continues to closely monitor and adjust which foreign language options will be offered to kindergarten through 12th-grade students, and it’s a longer process that shouldn’t be taken lightly, Curriculum Director Marty Lamansky said.

In May 2013, a world languages task force was assembled to address what foreign language instruction would look like in the near and distant future.

Since then, the district expanded Spanish instruction to every grade level for the first time. The two major items that have remained on the task force’s radar are the possibility of adding a dual-immersion program and choosing a language besides Spanish to offer students districtwide.

Lamansky said initially, the task force wanted Mandarin offered immediately, but adding more language instruction takes time, sometimes throughout a three- to five-year time frame. Immediate moves include providing new levels for seventh- and eighth-grade Spanish courses as well as a continued relationship with Colorado Mountain College for expanded foreign language instruction.

And when the district reintroduced its world languages survey to parents and students during March’s teacher conferences (the first survey results yielded very few results), and Mandarin wasn’t the top choice. With 228 responses, parents voted French as the top choice, and with 212 responses, students voted French the majority favorite, followed by German.

Lamansky said a decision will be made by December with possibly implementation as soon as January.

“In getting (another language) started, I want to make sure it’s sustainable,” Lamansky said Monday night. “Otherwise, it will be a waste of investment and resources for the district.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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