D51 Announces "Painful" Cuts, Unveils Budget Plan

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Reductions in staff, slashing programs, and stretching administrative dollars thin are just some of the "painful" plans District 51 has laid out to shore up a $13.6 million budget hole.

During a school board meeting Tuesday night, district staff presented the school board with their proposed 2011-2012 budget.

The $144.8 million budget represents a nine percent reduction from the 2010-2011 school year. Major cuts in state funding, a statutory requirement to increase payments to the state employee pension fund, and the loss of one time federal stimulus dollars all contributed to the reduction.

"This has been a very difficult year," said Steve Schultz, Superintendent of School District 51.

This marks the third straight year the district has had to make significant cuts. And while officials say they've worked hard to keep those cuts out of the classroom, there was no getting around it this year. The vast majority of the district's money -- 87 cents of every dollar -- goes directly to classroom instruction, mainly in the form of teacher salaries and benefits. And officials say you have to make cuts where the money is.

So for the 2011-2012 school year, the district is planning to eliminate 125 positions that include teachers, secretaries, and support staff at all grade levels. The reductions will likely result in larger class sizes, though the district says the increase will be minimal.

Officials say in some cases they simply won't refill positions left open by employees who are transferred, retire, or leave the district. But in other cases, they won't renew contracts of some first, second, and third year teachers.

"It's always difficult when you're having to affect people's jobs," said Schultz. "We value the work those people have done, but we have the revenue we have. We're committed as a district to do the best we can with the revenue we have."

District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland says 34 employees' contracts have not been renewed because of budget issues.

An additional 61 positions will be cut because the programs they were tied to are also being cut. That includes the School to Career program, the Valley East School, the reading instructional assistants program, and Glade Park Elementary.

The reduction in staff will save the school district $4.97 million, while the program cuts will save $2.84 million.

"There is not one thing that we've recommended for reduction that did not provide some benefit to students or the school system," said Schultz.

The district has also proposed a $3.84 million cut to administration and operations expenses. Officials point out that in the past three years, 58.3 percent of all cuts have been made from these two areas.

They also say leaving classrooms untouched would have meant completely eliminating administrative services which include payroll, human resources, the superintendent, the executive directors, and more.

The school board will officially adopt the budget in June.

The full rundown of cuts are as follows:

SALARIES AND BENEFITS: $1,962,600
-Reduction of 3 contract days for all employees
-Reduction of extended contracts
-Reduction of 5% in substitute pay

POSITION REDUCTIONS: $4,973,500
-27.5 elementary school certified positions
-7.5 middle school certified positions
-17 high school certified positions
-0.5 building administration positions
-29 building secretaries and non-instructional support positions
-7 building instructional support positions
-36.5 district-level support positions

PROGRAM REDUCTIONS: $2,840,400
-Restructure School to Work / Career program (3 positions)
-Close Valley East School (5 positions)
-Reduce Intervention / Reform program (high school)
-Cut Cosmetology program
-Reduce intervention funds (middle school)
-Cut Club Mid after school program
-Close Glade Park Elementary (2.2 positions)
-Cut reading instructional assistants program (51 positions)
-Reduce district-funded summer extended learning program
-Discontinue NWEA testing
-Eliminate financial support of community organizations

ADMINISTRATION / OPERATIONS REDUCTIONS: $3,840,300
-Fund transfers
-Reduce contact days (transportation)
-Reduce utility expenditures
-Reduce district level instructional support
-Budget cuts for district support departments
-District reduction in General Fund reserves


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