Millie Hamner: Per-pupil funding dropping in Summit
Summit School District Superintendent
This week’s Summit Daily News coverage of enhancements we have been able to make in the safety and security of our school facilities reminds me, once again, of how fortunate we are to be a part of community that supports its public schools. And, given looming budget reductions in reaction to the state’s budget situation, it might be confusing for our citizens to grasp how we can continue to fund facility upgrades while trimming our general fund budget.
It is important to note that the facility upgrades and projects were funded by voters for the purposes identified in the election question in November 2007. As a result, these funds were specifically earmarked for capital improvements and unfortunately cannot be used to help us address the anticipated general fund budget reduction.
We have begun the process of budget trimming in response to the state’s reduction in public school funding of $260 million. Ever since the passing of the School Finance Act in 1988, Colorado’s K-12 per-pupil funding has decreased annually from $132 above the national average in 1988 to a 2006 low of $1,397 per pupil below the national average. With the current reduction, we expect Colorado to rank 50th in the nation for funding public schools (source: National Center for Education Statistics).
Given this dire situation in our state, the impact to Summit Schools will range from a best-case scenario of $800,000 less revenue next year to a worst-case scenario ranging from $1.2 to $1.6 million less. In all other years, we have experienced new annual revenue based on inflation plus 1 percent through Amendment 23. This year marks the first year on record that Summit School District’s per pupil funding will actually decrease by about $500 per pupil.
The School Finance Act’s intent is to assure schools are funded equitably in Colorado. So even though our citizens have supported increases in school funding, this law will require our mill levy to go down so that we’ll collect less taxes from the very citizens who supported additional taxes for schools.
The Summit School District Board of Education is committed to adopting a balanced budget for the 2010/2011 school year and is seeking input from staff, parents and our community to accomplish this goal. Throughout the next several months, the school and district leadership team and the board will be weighing the pros and cons of possible ways to operate our schools next year with less revenue.
As a possibility for increasing funding for our schools, the board will decide by Aug. 30 whether to place a measure on the November ballot seeking increased funding. The Legislature last session approved a measure allowing school districts to ask voters for a per-pupil funding “override” of 25 percent. Since the last school district mill levy will be sunsetting, school taxes will be headed down again and this measure, if approved, would allow the school district to keep a small portion of the funds.
We urge our citizens to get involved and to stay informed about these matters affecting our schools and our community. Updated information about possible budget reductions and developments in the state’s legislative process will be posted on our website: http://www.summit.k12.co.us. Ideas for budget reductions will be discussed at a community meeting at 6 p.m. March 30 at Summit Middle School. We hope that our citizens will join us in helping us make the right decisions for our schools.
Dr. Millie Hamner, superintendent of schools, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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