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MEEKER I December financial tables from the Colorado Department of Education led Meeker School Superintendent Mark Meyer to recommend, and the Meeker School District RE-1 Board of Trustees to declare, a state of emergency over district funding.
The bad news was “devastating to a school district of our size,” Meyer said Friday. “I have been trying to talk to the state department of education all week to find out what happened and what we can do.”
The district board had passed a budget that was $540,000 in the red for the current year. In the past, deficit budgets have been met with more money coming into the district in the latter part of the year, so the district’s reserve fund has not needed to be tapped or was tapped very little.
“We were going over the December tables recently and were very unhappily disturbed,” Meyer said. “We have more than 600 students in the Meeker school district, and the state books are telling us we are down another $739 per student.
“With us being down already and then finding out that the tables indicate we are down about more than another $460,000, we find ourselves down by a little more than $1 million,” he said. “As far as I know and from my years in Colorado with other districts, I don’t know of any similar situation.”
He said the hope is that the state might provide the district with a loan to make up the shortfall.
“They won’t bail us out; a loan is possible,” Meyer said. “The board hasn’t decided which direction to go yet because as of today, I haven’t been able to get ahold of the right people in Denver.”
“We need money, so we won’t need to make any immediate or deep cuts,” he said. “Our unassigned ending fund balance (reserve fund) may help us out a bit, but there is no long-term solution there.”
Meyer said the district’s ending fund balance or carry-over funds are roughly $3.9 million. But, he said, “that really isn’t a lot of money; this would only allow the district to keep running for about 7.2 months before being completely out of money.”
How this current school year will be affected, Meyer said he doesn’t know yet.
“I would say today that cutting staff isn’t even on the table for this year,” he said. “That can always change under a worst-case scenario, but I don’t see that happening at this point.”
“Because we haven’t been able to talk to folks at the state level, we haven’t really looked at anything like another bond issue,” Meyer said. “We have so many questions to ask of the state that it is really tough to talk about options at this time.”
Meyer said the Meeker board will be holding a public forum, when the members will be seeking input from the community about priorities, possible solutions and, “as much as I don’t want to say it, where cuts can be made.”
The forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 in the Meeker High School auditorium, and the public is invited and urged to attend to address the issue because it is an “entire community issue,” Meyer said.