School board approves budget

State funding increases over $1.3 million

By Kendra Walker

During their June 24 meeting, the Gunnison Watershed School District board approved the school district’s 2024/25 fiscal year budget. 

The budget estimates a total of $52,414,454 in revenue to support $114,770,120 in expenses. Gunnison Watershed business manager Tia Mills explained that the big difference between the revenue and expenses is largely due to the bond passed in November 2022 to support the district’s facilities expansion and improvements project currently in progress. 

“The revenue from the bond proceeds was collected upfront and as the bond project gets underway, all the revenue will be spent on school improvements,” she said in a memo to the school board. “This results in a large spend down of fund balance resources, which is reflected in the difference between revenue and expenses.” 

Mills said when the bond project is removed from the figures, the district estimates revenues at $47,250,001 with related expenses of $49,270,120. “This still reflects deficit spending across most funds, which reflects a purposeful effort to reduce high fund balance levels over time,” she said. “Overall, the district maintains solid fund balance reserves.”

The district’s budget is based on the Public School Finance Act that was passed by the state legislature in May at $9.7 billion, which is an increase of over half a billion from the 2023/24 budget, according to Mills.

“This bill was successful in reducing the budget stabilization factor to zero for all K-12 funding. School finance funding to the district increased over $1.3 million,” she said. “Since 2009, the budget stabilization factor has shorted school districts across the state of $10 billion collectively. The elimination of this factor is an exciting first step toward full and adequate funding for K-12 services in the state of Colorado.”

Mills said that every effort was made to pass most of the funding increase on to staff through salary raises. This includes every position receiving an increase of $3,000 to the base salary, a 2% step increase as well as increases ranging from a 2.9% to 6.3% to all base salaries depending on the position. This helps the district achieve its goal of getting starting teacher salaries to $50,000, with a year one teacher with a bachelor’s degree earning a starting salary of $50,475. The budget supports a total of 310 full-time equivalent positions across all school locations, and with over 400 employees the district is one the largest employers in the valley. 

Mills said the 2024/25 budget also reflects staffing changes and adjustments, increases in insurance and IT-related expenses and grant funding to support clinical therapists in all schools. There is no federal COVID-19 stimulus funding included in the budget, as the district has spent all of its stimulus funds. 

State funding is based on the district’s October enrollment count, so once the district gets its official October headcount it will receive a supplemental School Finance Act allocation and the school board will approve an amended budget in January 2025. “Historically, the district has seen marked increases in enrollment… but overall, the district is expecting enrollment to remain fairly flat over the coming year,” said Mills. The district anticipates a total headcount of 2,076 this coming year, with 715 students at Crested Butte Community School, compared to last year’s district headcount of 2,066 and 714 students at CBCS. 

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