Montrose and Olathe Schools Facing Major Budget Cuts

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

MONTROSE, Colo. (KKCO) - A year after riding out the budget storm better than most, Montrose and Olathe Schools are now right with other districts across the state -- caught between major cuts and providing a quality education.

There's a lot of words Montrose and Olathe Schools officials would use to describe the atmosphere at work these days -- but fun isn't one of them.

"Our goal is to maintain jobs and programs if we can do it," said Karin Slater, Chief Financial Officer for Montrose and Olathe Schools.

After finding a fix for a 6.4 percent budget shortfall this school year --

"We had enough people that retired and left the district that we just didn't fill the positions. So we really didn't feel the impact," said Slater.

-- cuts in state funding, the loss of federal stimulus dollars, and a projected drop in enrollment now force them to reduce spending by 12.2 percent for next school year. They say that means the impacts won't be so small this time around.

"We're looking at everything and anything," said Slater. "We have a list of scenarios."

First and foremost, she says, class sizes will likely get bigger, as they cut back on the number of teachers through attrition -- which simply means they won't hire new teachers to replace ones that leave the district or retire.

"Right now we're at about 22 students per teacher district wide," said Slater. "As we're looking at the numbers, that might increase to 24."

In addition, 32 temporary employees who were hired on one year contracts likely won't see those contracts renewed. The district says it doesn't want to cut staff, but there's not much else it can cut.

"When you are in a service industry 85 percent of your budget is salary and benefits," said Slater.

Beyond that, officials say they're looking at reshuffling employees and trimming operations costs.

A preliminary plan will be presented to the school board on Tuesday, March 8. Then, the real grunt work begins.

"We're going to be going to parent organizations, principals, looking at all the different options as to what we can do," said Slater.

The $5.3 million Montrose and Olathe Schools has to cut might seem small in comparison to District 51's projected $12.1 million shortfall -- however, Montrose and Olathe Schools is less than half the size of District 51.

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