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Cut, cut, cut! The School Budget in Estes Park

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The local budget for the Park R-3 district is $10 million to $14 million, depending on how you juggle the numbers. Nearly all of that comes from local taxes. The Feds kick in a paltry $657,000, and all of it is allocated to specific services.

Local tax payers need to pay attention to the school budget because 100% of their taxes are funding it—not the state. The questions: what cuts can be made, and is the money being spent on the best usage?

Below is specific info about the Estes Park R-3 school budget, along with questions about where cuts could be made.

  • Students kick in $280,000 for their extra-curricular activities (football, cheerleading, student council, etc). This is all through local fundraising efforts and 100% goes back into those individual programs.
  • 85% (over $6 million) of the school budget is salary, wages and benefits (almost all contractual). Is that 85% salary, wages and benefits untouchable? Are all those positions actually necessary?
  • Nearly $2 million is benefits for salaried personnel (health care, workers comp, etc).
  • Nearly all of the $6 million in salaries is for teaching staff: $2M+ (Elementary), $1.2M+ (Middle), $1.6M+ (High)
  • The next highest salary percentage goes to “centralized services”, $572,211. Transportation, Operations and Food Services are on the lower end of the salary budget.
  • The “mortgage” is $1.1 million.
  • The aquatic center (pool) costs the school $137,550, mostly in supplies.
  • Food service costs around $351,000 per year, with over half of that coming from Federal sources.

A few things the board may cut: track resurfacing (used mostly by locals) and the aquatic center.

Is throwing money at our students and schools the solution? Not in Alaska, where they spend $16,675 per student, and yet are ranked 5th from the bottom in success.

Compare the 100% local taxes that go to our school to other nearby communities:

Thompson: 33.74% local

Poudre: 38.32% local

Boulder: 68.27% local

The State average is 39% local funding. This means the money from town stays in town to educate our student. At what cost?

The school board assesses and revises the improvement plan for students annually, making sure our school is keeping pace with federal standards.

With the public education system, our hands are tied. Even though the local community is providing for the next generation, taxpayers have no say as to what type of education they receive. The only input they have is through the local school board and with passing/not passing tax increases. In November 2013, Estes Park voted down a $300,000 subsidy to the local school. Is it because the local community doesn’t support the school, or rather they don’t understand what is at stake?

What is the best use of the tax dollars that go to our school? Currently, over half of the school budget goes directly into the classrooms in the form of teacher’s salaries and benefits.

If you have input into how the local school budget should be allocated, or what type of education our students receive, contact the local school board. The budget is public information. Individual board members contact info is on the PSDR website.

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