Dolores schools budget approved

Revenues slightly improve, but are still down; teachers will get a raise

The approved Dolores Schools budget is slightly up from last year but is still hurting from the "negative factor," a result of the lingering recession.

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, the district will operate on a $9.04 million budget, which includes $2.8 million in carryover funds from the previous year.

The budget increased by $13,293, or one percent over last year's budget, said business manager Karen Andrews.

"The extra funding came from an increase in equalization, which is the money we get from the state," she said. "Per-pupil operating revenues increased to $7,392 for 711 students on campus."

For the 2013-14 year, the per pupil operating revenues came in at $7,017 for 712 students, representing a 5 percent increase.

A popular component of the budget is across-the-board raises for the entire staff of 79.

All licensed teachers will receive a $50 salary increase, plus a step increase, Andrews said. All staff who have worked since 2008 will receive an additional step because they didn't receive one in 2008, a result of state and federal budget cuts from the U.S. financial crisis.

Step raises are set increases based on years worked for the district. For licensed teachers with 1 to 10 years, the increase is $500 per year; for 11 to 20 years, $700 per year; and for 21 years and up, $900 per year. Salaries and benefits increased by 4 percent over last fiscal year, going from $4.7 million to $5 million for fiscal year 2014-15.

For fiscal year 2014-14, the average salary for the district's 45 teachers was $39,095, Andrews said. This year's average teacher salary is not yet determined because teachers are still being hired for the upcoming school year.

Classified staff, which includes teacher aides, maintenance, secretaries, cooks, etc., also will receive step raises. For classified staff, the step increases are 25 cents per hour for 1 to 10 years; 30 cents for 11 to 20 years; and 35 cents for 21 years and up.

Total revenues for fiscal year 2014-15 came in a $6,233,471, an increase of 5.9 percent over last year's revenues of $5,885,733. Revenues are derived from funding at the local, state and federal levels. This year, local property taxes and ownership taxes chipped in $1.84 million; state funding is $4.13 million; federal funding is $194,047; and intermediate funding from Head Start and the Forest Service contribute $67,000.

On the expenditure side, the district first takes $325,000 and puts it in the capital reserve fund for construction and maintenance projects. The district spends $5 million for salaries and benefits; $570,910 for supplies and utilities; $72,000 for tuition and books to Southwest Colorado Community College and Fort Lewis College; and $1.17 million for school equipment, mechanic services, BOCES educational services and the online school. Total expenditures for fiscal year 2014-15 came in at $6,817,183 compared with fiscal year 2013-14 of $6,989,548, representing a 2 percent drop in spending.

Major purchases planned for this year are $50,000 for a down payment on a new school bus, $80,000 for a roof on the main gym, and $40,000 for new school computers.

The U.S. recession led to a statewide funding shortage for school districts called the negative factor. A decrease in state revenues - for example, from fewer tax dollars collected - has forced Colorado to cut education funding in order to balance the budget, a requirement under state law.

Last year, the Dolores district lost $900,000 in its budget because of the negative factor. This year, it missed out on $812,000.

"It is going in the right direction, but the state is still withholding an awful lot, and that hurts kids," Andrews said. "In the last 10 years, expenses keep increasing, but we keep getting less money, so it affects students negatively. Also, the state and federal government expect more but do not provide additional funding."