Steamboat Springs School District reduces ‘red’ in its budget |

Steamboat Springs School District reduces ‘red’ in its budget

Ben Ingersoll

— When the Steamboat Springs School Board approved the district’s 2013-14 budget in June of last year, it agreed to deficit spend by more than $230,000. On Monday, however, District Finance Director Dale Mellor announced that because of changes within the district over the course of the last six and a half months, that negative dollar figure has been reduced to a fraction of what it once was.

Changes like higher-than-expected enrollment and adjustments in staffing district-wide have reduced the deficit spending total to $44,220 with just five and a half months remaining in the 2013-14 fiscal year, Mellor said.

According to Superintendent Brad Meeks, part of the reason the district budgeted for such high deficit spending in 2013-14 had to do with the district entering a two-year pay increase agreement with its teachers.

The School Board — voting with five permanent members for the first time since November — approved the new, more balanced budget.

"We're only around $44,000 down from a $22 million general fund," Meeks said. "That's about as close as you could get. We're feeling really good about that."

Enrollment increased by 40 students, which translated to $231,670 more in funding for the district. After the Colorado Board of Education denied the district’s request to withdraw from the Northwest Colorado Board of Educational Services and become its own administrative unit in late December, the proposed costs of hiring a special education director and records manager no longer factored into the new budget.

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Changes in staffing, such as retiring teachers and hiring new educators who are less experienced and thus paid less, netted the district an additional $132,450. Steamboat also received $74,000 from South Routt School District for handling its technology needs and maintenance — an agreement forged between the districts in May 2012.

The largest increases in district spending since June included $107,310 to hire additional special education staff, $62,420 for new Steamboat Springs Middle School staff and $20,000 for an increase in special education preschool assessment.

No decision yet on possible BOCES appeal

In the wake of the state’s rejection of the district’s application to withdraw from the NW BOCES, Steamboat school officials haven't ruled out the idea of an appeal.

Meeks said Monday that the district has until Feb. 19 to appeal the decision to CDE interim assistant commissioner Randy Boyer. And although Meeks didn't make a proposal to the School Board at its first board meeting of 2014, the idea is still on the table.

"Whatever decision (Boyer) makes, that's the end of the process," Meeks said. "It can't be appealed to the State Board of Education."

And should the district file an appeal, CDE then has an additional 60 days to make up its mind on a final ruling.

Meeks said in order to successfully appeal, the district would have to prove to CDE that it could address its two main issues with the application, which was filed in August.

Boyer and CDE argued in the rejection letter that BOCES couldn't function properly without Steamboat and the district’s departure would be too much of a burden on the state administrative unit monitoring system.

"At this point, we can accept the decision, appeal, reapply or wait for a new BOCES structure," Meeks said. "At this point, I'm not prepared to make a recommendation."

NW BOCES Executive Director Amy Bollinger said she is scrambling to move forward and restructure the cooperative, possibly adding an extra special education director — a measure that has been discussed since the beginning of the school year.

"I'm looking at every single line item and program we have in place," Bollinger said. "We can only move forward as quickly as we make solid decisions together. Very definitely we want to go forward with the next BOCES board meeting with the superintendents to make definite restructuring decisions."

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

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