Schools consider $1.2 million in budget cuts, funding for Spanish Valley students

The San Juan School District has cut an additional $210,000 from budgets in the coming year in a process that may total up to $1.2 million in cuts before the budget is approved in June.
The additional cuts come on the heels of $750,000 in cuts made earlier in March. Up to $235,000 in additional cuts remain to be made.
The budget process was addressed during the March 24 meeting of the school board.
The cuts are necessary despite a legislative session in which cuts in education budgets were reported as minimal. While legislative cuts were small, there was no funding for growth and costs continue to rise. The result is a total impact of more than three percent of the San Juan School District budget.
The challenge is caused by the fact that tens of thousands of additional students enter the school system each year, the majority of growth is based in the ten school districts that are growing. The 30 districts that are not growing, including the San Juan School District, face decreasing budgets as funds are transferred to the growing districts.
School board business manager Clayton Holt reports that the reductions in basic funding from the state total $420,000. In addition, health insurance costs will rise 4.5 percent, retirement rates will increase 2.1 percent, and paying for employee step increases will total $300,000. In total, the impact on the budget is $1.2 million.
The board approved a number of cuts on March 24, including reducing the number of counselors at San Juan High School from two to one, transitioning the health insurance for certain classified employees, transitioning (in 2011) the principal position at Navajo Mountain High School to a head teacher position, and cutting classified librarians to seven hours a day. These cuts total approximately $210,000.
The board also instructed district administrators to investigate cuts in activities budgets of up to $75,000. The full cuts, if approved, would total ten percent of the district funding for activities.
Even if the activities budget cuts are made, the district would still seek additional cuts of up to $116,000 before the budgets are approved in June. The next meeting of the school board is April 21 in Monticello.
At a board meeting on March 2, the board approved increasing the student teacher ratio in schools by one student, resulting in a decrease in four positions in primary schools.
The board also approved using reserve funds to pay $400,000 in retirement benefits, eliminating a teaching position at Navajo Mountain High School, and reducing staffing in the district business office. The March 2 cuts totaled $750,000.
In other matters at the March 24 school board meeting, the Grand School District approached the board with concerns about funding for Spanish Valley students.
The Grand School District has been in a budget crisis since 2009, when a state audit showed that the district had been misallocating funds. Funds intended for maintenance and operations had been used to operate school programs.
The resulting budget crisis has resulted in a series of dramatic and painful budget cuts as the district attempts to retain its financial footing.
The Grand School District has said it is investigating “all avenues to increase ongoing funding streams” and approached the San Juan School District as a result.
At the current time, 138 students from Spanish Valley, who live and pay property taxes in San Juan County, attend school in the Grand County school system. The number of students is increasing over time as the Moab area grows and the increasing cost of living in Moab sends young families to adjacent Spanish Valley.
The San Juan School District does not operate schools in the Spanish Valley area.
The Grand School District collects the state funding to educate the San Juan students. In addition, the San Juan School District follows state law and forwards a portion of property taxes to the Grand School District.
Grand School officials believe that they subsidize San Juan students by up to $4,800 a year and requested that the San Juan School District consider a number of options.
These options include having the San Juan School District pay an additional amount for Spanish Valley students, increasing the amount of property tax that is forwarded to the Grand District, or changing the school district boundaries so Spanish Valley is in the Grand School District.
Grand officials suggested that Spanish Valley residents pay up to $1,700 per student in property taxes to San Juan County and the payment of the San Juan School District to Grand schools is approximately $700 per student.
San Juan School officials pointed out that the amount of the property tax payment is set by the state and suggested that the Grand School District approach the state if it needs to be adjusted.
Both groups agreed to carefully consider the options. San Juan School officials state that no action will be taken without a full and lengthy public process.

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