Steamboat Springs School District hopes to avoid layoffs | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs School District hopes to avoid layoffs

Officials meet with staff, parents for input on budget shortfall

Jack Weinstein

Steamboat Springs School District officials aren't sure whether layoffs will be necessary to overcome an estimated $2 million shortfall in the 2010-11 school year budget. But Superintendent Shalee Cun­ningham hopes any potential staff cuts could be accomplished through attrition rather than involuntary loss of employment.

Cunningham told the School Board on Monday that 12 to 15 faculty and staff members plan to retire after this school year, and those retirements could alleviate the need for layoffs. Of the current staff members planning to retire, Cunningham told the board about 75 percent are teachers and 25 percent are staff.

Cunningham also told board members that while she expects 2010-11 to be a challenging budget year, she thinks the following two years will be even more difficult.

"Again, I think the real impacts are going to be in years two and three," she said. "Our mantra is to stay away from the classroom. I don't think you'll see many impacts in the classroom next year."

District officials have said that the Colorado Department of Education has indicated the state could reduce K-12 education funding by 20 percent in the next three years.

Cunningham said the district should know in March what its staffing for 2010-11 will be based on its budget projections and potential supplemental funding from the Education Fund Board to keep class sizes small. The Educational Excellence Committee could decide to ask the district to reduce its $800,000 request for small class sizes when it meets tonight, she said. The small class size funding traditionally pays the salaries of numerous teachers.

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Finance Director Dale Mellor has said the $2 million the district estimates having to cut next year includes a $1.5 million reduction in funding from the state and $500,000 less in Education Fund Board gifts.

Cunnigham said the district would let faculty and staff know April 1 whether they would be returning next school year, something that is determined by seniority and, in some cases, credentials.

The district has employed a budget process that Cunning­ham said works from the bottom up.

She and Mellor have been meeting with faculty and staff in each district school to get feedback about how and where to cut. The district also is reaching out to parents through Parent Information and School Accountability committees.

Cunningham said the district also has set up a blog to allow parents and community members to post their recommendations for possible cuts. The blog can be accessed via the district's Web site, http://www.sssd.k12.co.us, or by visiting http://www.sssdbudgetblog.blogspot.com.

Until she and Mellor have met with faculty and staff at each building, parents and members of the community, Cunningham wouldn't offer any specifics regarding those discussions or where the district might cut from. She said the feedback from faculty, staff, parents and community members could be presented to the School Board at its March 22 meeting.

Cunningham did tell the School Board on Monday that the number of full-day kindergarten students who qualify for a scholarship has nearly doubled since the school year began in August. She said the district may have to discuss not offering scholarships next year.

Full-day kindergarten costs $225 per month for students who don't get scholarships.

The 2010-11 budget also will include what programs the district will elect to offer instead of receiving through the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Those discussions are ongoing with BOCES, but Cunningham indicated the district would begin running the Yampa Valley School, Steamboat's alternative school.

Online

Visit the Steamboat Springs School District’s budget blog at http://www.sssdbudgetblog.blogspot.com to view or make recommendations for possible district budget cuts.