Steamboat district overcharged for kindergarten | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat district overcharged for kindergarten

School officials send out e-mail to parents indicating eligibility for $211 class refund or credit

Jack Weinstein

— The Steamboat Springs Sch­ool District is issuing a $211 refund or credit to most parents whose children attended full-day kindergarten this past year.

According to numbers provided by the district, Steamboat ended the 2009-10 school year with 124 full-day kindergartners. Of those students' parents, 70 were sent an e-mail informing them they were eligible for a refund because they already had paid for the final month of tuition. Another 22 were informed that their last month would cost only $14, a $211 credit because they hadn't yet paid for the final month.

That brings the total of what the district will refund or credit to $19,412.

The rest of the students' parents aren't eligible for a refund or credit. Of the remaining 32 students, 25 were on full scholarships (based on eligibility in the federal free and reduced lunch program), six joined the district midyear and were on a different payment plan based on the cost per day, and one student's parents had inadvertently overpaid and will receive a different refund.

Superintendent Shalee Cunn­ingham said last week that the full-day kindergarten program isn't designed to make money.

"If we collect too much, we reimburse it," she said.

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District Finance Director Dale Mellor on Thursday said he couldn't verify the total dollar amount that will be refunded or credited to parents of full-day kindergartners. Mellor said he could verify only the per-student dollar amount of $211, which he worked out last month after a parent asked to go over the kindergarten budget with him.

"It was a difference of what we projected versus what the actual costs were," he said about the $211 refund or credit.

Mellor said full-day kinder­­garten was budgeted at $492,746 in 2009-10. That included $402,117 for teacher salaries, $25,566 for a half-time specials (physical education) teacher, $45,063 for aides and $20,000 for additional curriculum and supplies.

Colorado does not pay for full-day kindergarten, but it provides 58 percent of the state's finance formula funding amount for kindergartners — intended for half-day kindergarten. Mellor said Steamboat's kindergarten revenue last school year from the state totaled $262,503, leaving $230,243 that needed to be funded.

Mellor said the cost to the parents was intended to cover the students on scholarship, which started at 12 and jumped to 25 by the end of the school year.

Cunningham said that wouldn't happen next school year, when the district won't offer scholarships. Instead of parents having to pay $225 a month for 10 months for their children to attend full-day kindergarten, parents will be asked to pay about $194 a month for 10 months for a total of $1,939.

She said parents didn't realize they were paying for the students on scholarship, which wasn't fair.

During the first year of the full-day kindergarten program, 2008-09, the district estimated that it would cost $5,720 per student, but it changed that figure to $2,572 after the Oct. 1 student count, which determines how much per-pupil funding the district receives from the state. The district adjusted the monthly payment amount for parents so they wouldn't overpay.