Preliminary school district budget shows 14 % increase |

Preliminary school district budget shows 14 % increase

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit School District is proposing to increase spending on students and staff by $2.9 million, and school board members are grateful they have the funding increases to do it.

District business manager Dan Huenneke presented the preliminary budget to board members Wednesday, highlighting planned expenses for additional teachers and paraprofessionals, extra money for programs such as special education and English as a Second Language and increased district costs for insurance premiums, school police officers and inflation.

The preliminary budget for the general fund is 14 percent higher than the 2001/02 budget. It is $23.7 million.

The spending hikes were made possible by several increases in revenue. A projected increase in students in 2002-2003 means an extra $220,000 from the state. Another $845,000 will benefit the district thanks to increases based on the consumer price index and Amendment 23, a school funding boost passed by Colorado voters in 2000.

Summit County voters also approved a mill levy increase in November that gives the district an extra $1,058,900 to raise teacher pay to compensate for the High Country’s equally elevated cost of living. The district also will benefit from state and federal grant sources, to the tune of nearly $200,000.

School board members said they are glad voters approved the mill levy increase, allowing them to return days to the school calendar and increase support for student programs without having to make sacrifices elsewhere.

“The budget process is a lot easier this time around, I think,” said Superintendent Wes Smith. “Other school districts aren’t as lucky.”

Even with spending increases, some board members wanted more. Board President Jennifer Brauns looked at the proposed $70,000 increase for special education and gifted and talented programs and wanted more.

“I know it’s a lot,” Brauns said. “But after the presentations we’ve heard, and after my conversations with parents on this, I wonder if there isn’t some way to find more money.”

Board member Jay Brunvand might have found the answer to Brauns’ request during Wednesday’s board meeting. Brunvand, Minturn’s financial officer, noticed a $15,000 line item for school district elections. The district won’t have any elections this year, and that money could end up going toward school programs.

The school board will review the budget twice more before approving it. The budget is on the agenda for public hearing at the board’s June 12 and June 26 regular meetings. State law requires the school district to finalize its budget by June 30.

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