Summit School District ranked second in highest cost of living in the state, only behind Aspen |

Summit School District ranked second in highest cost of living in the state, only behind Aspen

Silverthorne Elementary teacher Liz McFarland, a veteran of the Summit School District, teaches on the first day of school, Thursday, August 24, 2017.
Hugh Carey /

Summit School District has the second highest cost of living of all 178 Colorado school districts, joining other mountain resort communities in the top 10 most expensive school districts.

The measure comes from the 2017 Colorado School District Cost of Living Analysis commissioned by the Colorado Legislative Council. Every two years, the study reports how much a ‘typical’ family of three with a household income of $53,115 needs to spend to live in any given school district. That baseline income is based on how much a typical Colorado teacher with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree earns each year.

The cost is also rated on a ratio index. Districts with indexes higher than 100 are more expensive than the state average and those less than 100 are cheaper.

Summit School District’s typical cost of living came out to $63,847, compared to the statewide average of $51,930, and had an index of 120. Summit was only topped by Aspen School District, where the typical cost of living is an eye-popping $91,758 and an index of 173.

Other mountain school districts in the top 10 include Steamboat Springs at No. 4, Eagle at No. 5 and Telluride at No. 6. Denver ranked No. 7 with annual cost of living estimated at $58,737.

Cost of living an important factor in figuring out everything from how much school districts receive for per-pupil funding to building maintenance budgets. The factor is used in a formula mandated by the Public School Finance Act of 1994 that calculates total program funding for any given school district.

The average cost of living, $51,930, is calculated using the average market cost of housing, goods and services in the state.

Three school districts — Poudre, St. Vrain Valley and Manitou Springs — have an index of 100, meaning they have the state’s average cost of living. The southeastern counties of Baca and Otero had the six school districts with the lowest cost of living. Baca’s Springfield School District had the lowest at $45,102.

The study indicates that cost of living has increased in 162 of the state’s 178 districts. It has increased so much in 87 of those districts, including Summit, that the cost of living factor has been boosted in the budgeting formula to keep up.

Other factors used in calculating total funding for a school program include the personnel costs, a ‘size factor’ that gives smaller school districts a boost given their lower purchasing power and eligibility for ‘at-risk’ funding for schools with larger proportion of students eligible for free lunch assistance.

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