State Reps for Summit County foresee big education cuts
Summit Daily News
FRISCO – State representatives warned Summit County residents of possible hits to education funding resulting from a $1 billion budget shortfall this year during a joint town hall meeting Saturday morning in Frisco.
Though the cuts will likely include significant impacts to K-12 and higher education, Summit schools are prepared to handle the cuts due to the 3B mill levy passed in November, Rep. Millie Hamner said.
“Summit School District saw this coming,” Hamner said after the meeting. “I think Summit schools are going to be in good shape.”
The funding reductions might prevent the district from implementing some new programs, but it will likely not have to eliminate important existing programs, Hamner said.
Approximately $5.2 billion in state budget cuts over the last couple years has already reduced education funding by $260 million.
Additional cuts this year could force some schools in the state to increase class sizes or go to four-day school weeks and might mean significant hits to higher education funding, said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, a Democrat and Joint Budget Committee veteran who joined Hamner for Saturday’s town hall meeting.
Higher education spending, currently at approximately $660 million per year could be reduced to $500 million per year, causing increases in in-state tuition rates at public institutions across the state, he said.
“As the economy goes so goes the state budget,” Ferrandino said at the meeting. “We’re going to make some really difficult choices as we move through this budget.”
Approximately 30 people attended the town hall meeting at Abbey’s Coffee in Frisco Saturday. Ferrandino went over the structure of the state budget as well as proposed cuts for this year before taking questions from the crowd.
Residents who attended the meeting asked about ways to increase state revenues, a complicated topic at the Capitol as any revenue increase that impacts taxes has to be approved by the Colorado voters.
Ferrandino said recent suggestions to increase revenue through taxation have included returning to pre-2000 income and sales tax levels and implementing a graduated income tax.
“(The Taxpayer Bill of Rights) says we need to ask voters for more revenue if we need it,” Ferrandino said. “I believe we need it. We’re cutting K-12 (education) so hard, and higher ed(ucation) that we’re hurting our potential economic future as a state.
Health care coverage related to the new federal legislation, Medicaid and, briefly, transportation were also discussed during the meeting in the context of state budget concerns.
Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, a Democrat representing Senate District 16, who organized the meeting in conjunction with Hamner, arrived shortly after it ended due to the weather Saturday, which delayed her drive from Gilpin county.
Gov. Bill Ritter submitted a preliminary budget proposal in November. New Gov. John Hickenlooper will make his own adjustments and submit next years budget proposal to the joint budget committee by Feb. 15.
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