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This is an open letter to all residents in Meeker School District-RE1. Last week, the Meeker Board of Education (MBE) approved current policy DBH and declared the school district in a fiscal emergency.
What does this mean? This policy states that the MBE has determined that the amount of funding appropriated for expenditure in the budget exceeds the actual revenue available to the district due to actions of the Colorado State Legislature and/or governor.
On Jan. 6, the Meeker School District (MSD) received final budget numbers from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). This is the amount of money per pupil the state will send to the MSD for the current school year. The original funding was projected to be $7,625 per pupil. The actual amount received by MSD is $739 less per pupil than the projected amount CDE reported to the MSD in October.
What that means is the MSD will receive $6,886 per-pupil funding, which is approximately $500,000 less than expected.
How did this happen? That is the difficult part to explain.
Due to the complex school finance process, the money collected by local county property taxes through the assessed value is sent to the state each year. The state then uses all of the past legislation including the Gallagher Amendment of 1982, TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) of 1992, the Colorado School Finance Act of 1994, Amendment 23 and most recently SB-13-260 to determine how much money each school district will receive.
In Rio Blanco County, assessed values were approximately 15 percent lower than in the past two years. So, the negative factor that applies to the MSD went up (money sent back to the state) and the per-pupil funding (money received back from the state) went down significantly.
The MSD was anticipating the budget needed for the 2013–2014 school year to be more than what the MSD could afford by approximately $540,000. Since the November mill levy override request failed to pass, the MSD was prepared to deal with this shortfall.
Now, with this new funding level presented by CDE, the MSD will be approximately $1,003,000 short for this school year. Yes, that is over a million dollars short.
The annual school budget for MSD is just under $6 million dollars annually, so this is almost 20 percent of the entire budget.
Whose fault is this? This is not a result of current or past school board or superintendent decisions.
This is a result of some of the most complex school finance legislation imaginable.
In 2011, Colorado ranked 43rd in state funding for public education. Colorado spends approximately $2,700 less per pupil than the national average. Neighboring states like Kansas spend more than $2,400 more and Wyoming spends over $10,000 more per pupil each year than Colorado.
What do we do?
Meeker Schools Superintendent Mark Meyers will be convening a working group made up of school staff, two members of the school board and community members with the intent to explore all possible options to cut the current budget.
This group will make recommendations on spending in a effort to get through this year’s difficult financial situation. This working group will also explore ideas addressing how to prepare for the long- term sustainability of MSD.
What we need from the Meeker community are ideas and suggestions on how we educate our kids under this legislative-dictated budget. In addition, we are looking for community members who are able to volunteer as members of this working group to help create a solid financial plan now and into the future. This working group will bring budget recommendations to the superintendent and the board of education.
The Meeker School District will also be hosting a public forum at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 at Meeker High School to discuss this situation in an open setting.
Meeker Board of Education