Re-1 budget battle begins

School district considers ways to make up $1.2 million

The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 is trying to find a way to trim $1.2 million off its 2012-13 budget due to some budget decisions in past years that could be reversed in the upcoming year.

The biggest increases from last year are resuming salary increases for teachers. The two unpaid furlough days teachers were forced to take during the 2011-12 school year will likely be eliminated, and the salary increases would be about $362,000.

A 7 percent health insurance increase in the district premiums would cost the Re-1 $144,000 and additional benefits would cost another $69,500.

Interim Superintendent Mary Rubadeau said the hope is to get teachers back on their step salary schedule, but added that decision will ultimately be made by the school board.

She said if this item is included in the budget, all teachers would likely receive a raise for the first time in four years and added the raises right now are built into the budget.

As a cost-cutting measure, some teachers leaving the district may not be replaced. Veteran teachers who leave will likely be replaced by a teachers with less experience that make less money, Rubadeau said.

In addition, the Colorado Department of Education only increased its per pupil finding for the 2012-13 school year by a little more than $1, and the district is still facing a shortfall when compared with last year due to declining enrollment.

According to Re-1 figures full-time equivalency numbers will decrease by 38 students resulting in a loss of a little more than $216.000. For every student who attends school in the district, Re-1 receives $6,161 from the state.

Rubadeau said the Oct. 1 count date on the number of students attending school in Re-1 is crucial because this is where the bulk of the money comes from.

To make some of this money up, the school board is considering reducing its administration team by a few people to save up to $115,000.

The chief of operations for Re-1 is currently held by Michael Canzona who is resigning from the district at the end of June and his position will not be filled.

Rubadeau said some reorganization of some jobs will be done to ensure that this position is still covered. She also said the district is looking at a grant to fund a special education position.

In the possible ideas for cuts, adjusting positions for the elementary schools of Mesa, Kemper, Manaugh and Lewis Arriola, along with possibilities that positions will be adjusted at the middle school and the high school are on the table.

Adjusting these positions at these schools would save Re-1 more than $500,000.

Rubadeau said while the contracts for all teachers and staff will be handed out May 22, there are still employees who are still making decisions on whether to return.

Another possible cut the school board is considering is changing from dual bus routes to single bus routes for students when the district returns to a five-day school week next school year. This would save about $150,000.

If the board followed the district’s suggestions to the letter on expenses, adjustments for operating budgets and the ideas for cuts, the budget would end up being $8,700 in the black.

However that was before a contingency item for two positions or for an emergency was included at a cost of $100,000.

“You need a contingency for something that may happen,” Rubadeau said, and added if the district had to dip into these funds it would be transparent and would need board approval.

Rubadeau said more work needs to be done on the budget, but added she likes the work that has already been completed.

“I think we have done an enormous amount,” she said. “We have a good plan here. It has been provided to (the board) to see if it was OK. The budget is always a specialty plan.”

Michael Maresh can be reached at michaelm@cortezjournal.com