Residents of Greeley-Evans School District 6 overwhelmingly voted down a mill levy override in 2009 that would have allowed the school district to collect about $16 million more per year in revenues.
Now that the school district is facing budget cuts of up to $6 million, it seems many interested residents are sending this message to District 6 officials: Dont cut anything I care about.
At a meeting last week held to collect feedback from parents and residents about the looming cuts, more comments seemed to center about what the district should not cut rather than what it could eliminate to balance its budget. Dont cut athletics, dont cut programs for the gifted, dont cut special education, dont cut extracurricular activities, dont cut art the sheer number of donts well exceeded the dos.
The reality, however, is cuts are coming. And after several years of similar budget shortfalls, these cuts will be painful.
Nothing is off the table at this point, and it will be impossible to keep these cuts completely away from students.
We believe the board of education will have to look at every salary, every program, every school, every classroom to find the estimated $6 million needed this year to make up for the shortfall in property tax income due to a decline in property values.
Its also going to have to be a time for creative thinking, both on the part of District 6 leaders and Greeley-Evans residents.
We applaud the districts decision to advertise on school buses. While the amount of income from this venture could be seen as small, it has potential to offset at least some cuts. Its a good idea.
The recent creation of a private foundation to raise money for classrooms is also a great idea and could help make up for some of the shortfalls the district is experiencing.
Certainly there are other creative ways out there to raise revenue for the district, especially in light of the obvious reluctance of taxpayers to pay out anymore money.
There may be other advertising revenue that can be generated through schools or sports programs. Maybe the District 6 stadium can find a corporate sponsor.
Directional drilling for oil and gas has been explored at some school sites and could provide a reasonable, although temporary, revenue source for the district.
There were a few creative ideas thrown out at least weeks meeting, including providing more online instruction for students, switching to alternative energy sources at some schools and eliminating some assistant principal positions. The feasibility of these suggestions still needs to be explored.
District 6 isnt the only school district suffering. Poudre School District in Fort Collins has considered closing elementary schools to make up for an estimated $12 million in cuts.
Jefferson County, the largest school district in the state, is looking to cut $20 million and has proposed cutting nearly 100 teaching positions. Overall, Colorado school districts will have $260 million less from the state for the next budget year.
But its worth remembering other school districts may not feel the pain of budget cuts as much as District 6 because almost all of them in Colorado have a mill levy override that adds additional revenue to their school districts. Greeley-Evans voters spoke strongly on that point in the 2009 election, so now we must also face the consequences.
We urge all residents to look at the financial situation of the district and help the board of education find additional revenue or areas to cut. We know it will be painful, but there is no doubt it is necessary.
We simply cant ignore that financially our schools are struggling. Its going to take the entire community working together to ensure our kids get the best education possible.
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