School board approves final 2003/2004 budget |

School board approves final 2003/2004 budget

SUMMIT COUNTY- The Summit School District unanimously approved a $23.9 million final budget for the 2003/2004 school year at its meeting on Wednesday night. The figure is 2.4 percent higher than last year.

More than 89 percent of the district’s General Fund is allocated directly to educational services – a portion higher than in many other districts in the state, according to the district’s business services director, Dan Huenneke.

Huenneke attributes the high percentage to mill levies passed by local voters over the past four years.

“You can sit back and let your funding drop and allow the quality of education to go down, or you can figure out where to get additional money and do something about it,” said Huenneke.

Expenses such as transportation and building and maintenance are not financed through the General Fund, but through two separate mill levies placed on the ballot by the school district and passed by local voters.

The special building, maintenance and technology budget includes funding for construction of a new elementary school in Silverthorne, a facilities building and maintenance and technology improvements at schools. The funding was authorized through a three-year levy passed by voters in November 2001.

The levy also provides funding of about $250 per student per year for software, vocational technical programs and specialized teacher development.

Funding provided by the levy allows the $2.2 million of expenditures for the projects to be paid through a source separate from the General Fund, so that the projects don’t deplete classroom dollars.

The transportation levy, passed in 1999, saves about $500,000 against the General Fund.

“These levies give us a huge advantage,” Huenneke said. “We feel fortunate that local voters recognize their value. They have helped us keep class sizes down and enabled us to run many quality programs.”

In the 1999/2000 school year, before levy funds were used, only 79 percent of the budget was allocated to educational services.

Compared to last year’s budget, expenses increased in several areas.

A $320,000 increase in the cost of the employee health benefit plan particularly concerned Huenneke. A committee, consisting of two school board members and one representative from each school in the district, is examining the rise in cost and available options to control costs.

“We’re talking about effective modifications to the health plan to stabilize the inflation,” said Huenneke. “We’re not talking about chopping blocks. We’re going to try to do what’s best for the district and for the employees.”

$784,000 in annual teacher pay increases were offset by more than $400,000 in staff attrition savings. Normal pay increases for teaching and support staff averaged 5 percent.

The district saved almost $90,000 in anticipated energy costs through its participation in a natural gas purchasing consortium with five other districts. Together, the districts developed a strategy to negotiate the best contract price to meet their energy needs.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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