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Despite rosier state finances, many districts still face cuts

Districts around the state are finalizing their budgets and, despite an increase in funding, some are still facing cutbacks.

According to the Colorado School Finance Project (CSFP), a nonpartisan school finance research organization, at least 14 districts face six-figure budget cuts for the 2014-15 school year. Another 14 districts will have to dip into reserve funds to cover their costs. The report’s contents was either self-reported or came from media accounts. As such, it does not include all districts.

But the districts’ responses reveal an improvisational approach in some regions as districts tighten their belts. For example, two rural northeast Colorado districts, Brush and Buffalo, are combining food services and raising breakfast and lunch prices to cut costs.

Brush also cut summer school for elementary and middle school students, eliminated a bus route and reduced the number of school days. But one area they refuse to cut is teacher training, which district officials deemed “bedrock and untouchable.”

In Silverton, a remote district in southwestern Colorado, a budget shortfall of at least $200,000 means the district must cut many support staff, including all paraprofessionals and interventionists for struggling students. Last year, Silverton avoided cuts by dipping into its reserves “in anticipation there was hope on the horizon,” school officials reported to the School Finance Project. But this year, they said, the cuts were unavoidable.

The biggest cut reported came from Adams 14, where district officials are grappling with cuts of at least $3.5 million and as high as $5 million. The cuts amount to 41 full-time staff positions and will also hit salaries, benefits and professional development.

For more, read the rest of the CSFP’s mid-year budget conversations here.

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