Courier staff writer
VALLEY — Unless voters statewide approve funding for a complete system overhaul this November, school districts both local and beyond will have to continue operating on tight budgets this coming school year.
Last month, Colorado legislators approved Senate Bill 13-260, which sets the annual basic funding for school districts while recognizing additional funding and special programs set forth in the school finance act.
This year’s bill includes several notable features. It increases basic school operations $210 million to $5.5 billion, average per pupil funding by 2.7 percent from $6,479 to $6,652 and special education funding by $20 million. It provides 3,200 more Colorado Preschool Program slots and full-time kindergarten opportunities; charter school facility reimbursements; $16 million in READ funding; and $200,000 for the Great Teachers and Leaders fund.
It also includes $2.5 million for schools serving juvenile delinquent programs; over $1 million in stipends for teachers holding national board certifications; and $3 million to recruit high-quality rural teachers through a program with an outside consulting firm.
In addition, half of any state surplus at the end of the year is transferred to the State Education Fund (SEF), an account to supplement state K-12 funding. The year’s amount is estimated to be about $137 million, according to reports. The SEF is also estimated to have between $615 million and $775 million remaining in the account at the end of 2013-14 before the additional funding is moved.
All but one Valley school districts will see a slight increase in state funding for the 2013-2014 school year if their October count numbers jive with the state’s estimates, solidifying the deal.
Each district’s budget falls victim to the “negative factor.” This factor was first included in fiscal year 2010-2011 and “acts as a reduction to other existing factors,” according to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE).
Creede will see a difference of $22,579 from the 2012-2013 school year state share, according to CDE documents. Last year, the district’s revised total program funding with supplements was $1,153,593. This fall, the district is predicted to serve about five less students and will receive $1,134,731.
Alamosa is assumed to see an additional 1.5 students this coming year with an increase of $327,328 for a total state share of $13,724, 851, according to CDE.
“I’m not willing to build a budget on this,” said Alamosa School District Superintendent Rob Alejo at a May Alamosa Board of Education meeting. “In our region, it is rural. We are in a declining environment... It is a flat line, rollover budget.”
Sangre de Cristo, Sanford and Monte Vista are also scheduled for increased enrollment. Sangre de Cristo should have four more students and a budget of $2,612,974, an increase of $84,043, and Sanford almost 13 students and a budget of $2,806,152, an increase of $192,464. Monte Vista is expected to take on almost half a student and a budget of $7,492,191, an increase of $168,742.
The remaining nine school districts are forecasted to see a decline in student body population, according to CDE. North Conejos is predicted to service about six fewer students; South Conejos about 10; Centennial about six; Del Norte almost five; Sargent two; Mountain Valley about one; Center about four; and Moffat and Sierra Grande less than one.
Their state shares for the coming school year are:
•North Conejos: $6,795,420, a $106,889 increase
•South Conejos: $2,330,393, a $6,409 increase
•Centennial: $2,197,122, a $25,355 increase
•Del Norte: $$3,845,864, a $2,035 increase
•Sargent: $3,259,896, a $57,727 increase
•Mountain Valley: $1,377,693, a $20,563 increase
•Center: $4,385,548, a $52,699 increase
•Moffat: $2,323,266, a $53,162 increase
•Sierra Grande: $2,515,791, a $55,142 increase
All Valley school districts, however, can supplement their budgets through other means like grant programs, mill levies and property sales.