District starts looking at costs

Cut travel, group suggests to school board

Teachers, parents and community members suggested Tuesday to Durango School District 9-R that cutting back on travel and expensive materials are some ways to help make up for a projected budget shortage next year.

The district expects to have about $1 million less because of declining funding from the state and a loss of dozens of students to two Durango charter schools.

Last year, the district cut only $300,000 from its budget because of the $3.2 million mill levy increase voters approved in 2010.

About 30 teachers, parents and community members delivered ideas after the district asked for them.

Participants suggested decreasing the amount spent on expensive new instructional materials, eliminating out-of-district travel for professional development and re-evaluating the diversity of programs offered at schools.

Revenue next year is predicted to fall from $38 million to $37 million, said Laine Gibson, the district’s chief financial officer. That revenue forecast includes use of about $1.3 million in reserve funds.

State funding is expected to decrease by 2 percent, or about $130 per student, Gibson said.

Meanwhile, the district expects to lose 69 students next year to area charters, Gibson said. The district will most likely be forced to cut seven staff members in the middle and high schools, he said.

Next year should be the last that 9-R sees noticeable declines in its enrollment because both Animas High School and Mountain Middle School will have filled out every grade level, Gibson said.

Participants also suggested the district pursue revenue-generating opportunities such as grants, business collaborations and shared resources between schools, including local charters.

The district asked the group for feedback about student fees and the amount of savings the district should keep in its reserve fund.

Most participants opposed fees for textbooks, transportation and honors classes.

“We don’t believe you should have to pay to be challenged in Durango School District,” said Durango High School Principal Diane Lashinsky.

The high school currently charges $10 to $20 – or textbook costs – for six advanced-placement classes.

The school board will discuss fees at an upcoming meeting and will approve a final budget in June.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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