Montrose County School District Tackles Funding, Other Issues
by Kati O'Hare
May 31, 2012 | 795 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTROSE – Funding cuts have made the Montrose County School District mean and lean, regarding budget and operations, and, officials say, are forcing the district to think of innovative ways of saving and preparing for the future.

The district got some good news from the state recently. For the first time in several years, the district will not see a direct cut in its per pupil funding – but rather a funding increase of 55 cents per student.

Although the projected $3,300 extra in funding the increase produces, however, doesn't put a dent in the approximately $8 million in cuts the district has had to make over the past decade, Superintendent Mark MacHale said last week, “It's good news in light of significant cuts.”

The Montrose School District still faces $1.5 million in increased costs for its 2012-13 school year, the result of projected increases in transportation, health care and retirements, and a decrease in its student population, MacHale said.

MacHale has been addressing a variety of issues in public meetings for the last school year that range from academic achievement to staffing and budget cuts and deteriorating facilities.

As a result of his efforts, a Community School Improvement Team has been formed and has developed three priorities for the district: student achievement, recruitment and retention and facilities.

“There were up to 80 people at those meetings,” said Melanie Hall, executive director of the Montrose Community Foundation, which facilitated the sessions. “A smaller group emerged from the last meeting.”

Although some things can be done without extra money, MacHale said the big improvements need more funding. The CSIT, which now consists of about 20 community members, will look at options over the next few months and then present recommendations to the school board.

“Extra investment is needed to improve our school district,” MacHale said. “We are a big economic indicator, as the community's largest employer. If we let people go, or hire people back, it is felt by the community.”

The group met for its first time Tuesday, and Hall said it will begin to look more closely at the budget and different funding options, as well as the other priorities.

At a CSIT meeting in Olathe, the group graded all funding options and a mill levy and sales tax emerged as A+ options.

“A deeper analysis is what the task force is going to do,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, MacHale said the district is exploring ways to save money.

Over the summer, a firm will evaluate the district's entire system as part of an intergovernmental agreement between the district and the Colorado Governor's Energy Office. The evaluation will pinpoint energy savings throughout the district's buildings and produce an audit that will assist the Governor's Energy Office in providing project ideas and management, as well as possible financing, for any improvements the district decides to move forward with, according to district officials.

A timeline for the release of the audit has not yet been set.

Kati O'Hare at kohare@watchnewspapers.com

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