The District Accountability Committee discussed the 2017 budget at their meeting Monday. Revenue in the district general fund is expected to be about $20.82 million for 2017, about $1.2 million less than 2016. The district’s beginning fund balance for 2017 is $5.3 million.
Finance director Carla Hoehn presented a general fund summary at the accountability meeting. The full budget will be available after the Board of Education votes on the proposed budget at their meeting next Tuesday, Dec. 20.
About $17.68 million of the $20.82 million is budgeted for expenditures, including district operating expenses. The district will transfer $2.8 million to charter schools and just under $800,000 to other funds, including technology, pupil activity, preschool fund, food services and others.
The ending fund balance will be about $4.83 million, but $760,000 will be reserved for TABOR and $1.2 million will be reserved for Kinder Morgan. The unreserved fund balance will be about $2.82 million. The district can use those funds as necessary, but tries to avoid doing so, Hoehn said.
As district officials put the budget together this fall, they also audited the district’s finances, Hoehn said at the meeting. The audit revealed that during 2016, the district had an increase in its fund balance of about $447,000.
Reserve funds were decreasing each year, so district administrators put a freeze on spending earlier in 2016, Superintendent Lori Haukeness said, asking principals and teachers to spend money only on essentials.
The district saved significantly on the low cost of fuel in 2016, but that could be a larger expense in 2017, Hoehn said.
The budget includes a two-phase sale of the Calkins Building to developers, Hoehn said. Becky Barber and Ivy Tu plan to buy the building for $100,000 next year, and the soccer fields and grounds surrounding the building for another $100,000 in 2018, Hoehn said. Barber and Tu plan to convert the former schoolhouse into apartment housing.
Haukeness praised Hoehn, who started with the district in June, for her work on the budget.
“Carla has done a phenomenal job,” she said.
The group also discussed district accreditation and charter with Battlerock school at the meeting. Haukeness reported that the district would not appeal its low accreditation rating from the Colorado Department of Education. Earlier in the school year, Haukeness told the school board she was confident that the district would win an appeal.
In October, Re-1 was accredited at “priority improvement,” the second-lowest in CDE’s five-tier rating system, for the sixth year in a row. According to Colorado Senate Bill 163, passed in 2009, districts and schools can spend five consecutive years at the two lowest tiers — “priority improvement” and “turnaround” — before they face consequences and intervention from the state. The countdown is known as the “accountability clock.”
At their meeting Tuesday, the Montezuma-Cortez Board of Education will discuss pathways for improvement for the district, which is one condition the state requires of districts that have run out of time on the accountability clock.
Haukeness said the district still will seek redesignations for Montezuma-Cortez High School and Cortez Middle School. They will seek the “accredited with insufficient data” rating for those schools, based on the low standardized test participation rates among students at those schools.
Haukeness said the pathways would include continuations of improvement programs in which the district is already involved. Schools in the district are working with the University of Virginia on a turnaround program, and staff members put together comprehensive 90-day curriculum plans.
The committee also discussed the district’s charter agreement with Battlerock Charter School. The school is located in McElmo Canyon and serves 57 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Though Re-1 District officials analyzed the school’s academic performance, they concluded that there was not enough data to determine an assessment. In English Language Arts achievement on the STAR standardized test, 71 percent were below grade level expectations at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, according to information provided to the committee. In math achievement, 60 percent were below grade level expectations for that time frame.
The Accountability Committee suggested the Re-1 board of education consider a one- or two-year charter with an option to extend. The committee recommended the charter include conditions that the school meets clear academic and financial performance benchmarks, and provide more transparent and thorough information so the district can accurately assess those criteria.
[email protected]This article was revised on Dec. 21, 2016, to correct the status of the school district’s accreditation.