More school cuts mulled in wake of election results

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Officials will continue to look for ways to cut the budget for Mesa County School District 51 following the defeat of a ballot measure that would have temporarily increased property tax revenues.

While it’s still too early to know for sure,  another $4 million to $5 million in cuts could be required — although the ultimate amount could be more or less. “Everything is on the table,” said Superintendent Steve Schultz.

Steve Schultz

Steve Schultz

Two new members of the School District 51 Board of Education selected in the Nov. 1 election soon will become involved in the process, Schultz said. Ann Tisue defeated incumbent Cindy Enos-Martinez in District B, while Arvan Jeffry Leany was unopposed in  District A.

Public forums also will be held to gather suggestions and comments on school budget cuts, Schultz said.

Referred Measure 3B on the election ballot asked voters to allow District 51 to override a state mill levy freeze and assess an additional seven mills of property tax for six years. The increased would have raised an estimated $12.5 million each year at the current level of property values.

Measure 3B failed by a wide margin, as did Proposition 103, a statewide measure that would have increased states sales and income tax rates for five years to generate an estimated $3 billion in additional funding for education.

In District 51, any cuts to the 2012-2013 budget will come on top of a total of

$28.6 million in cuts over the past three years. Earlier this year, the school board approved $13.6 million in budget cuts that included the reduction of 185 full-time positions and a shorter school year by three days.

The results of a comprehensive review of the district have offered some guidelines in making budget cuts, Schultz said. At the same time, however, federal and state regulations restrict other cuts — to special education, for example. What’s more, newly enacted state legislation soon will require school districts to conduct more comprehensive teacher evaluations.

Regardless of the outcome, Schultz said District 51 teachers and staff will continue to strive to provide the best education possible. “It’s going to be hard, but they’re committed to working with the kids. We all are.”

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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