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State budget upswing is good news for schools

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — School District 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler said he is “cautiously optimistic” the state Legislature could increase funding for K-12 education next year during the school board’s Nov. 27 meeting.
    Fiedler told the board of education Gov. John Hickenlooper released the initial budget, and the funding increase for K-12 education is projected to be $208.5 million.

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     “What that means for 27J is approximately $174 per student more than fiscal year 2012-13,” he said.
    Fiedler said the state Legislature will have to wrestle with the budget. But if approved, it would be the first time in four years the district’s funding has not been cut or received flat funding.
    On the downside, Fiedler said the negative factor will continue to be in effect for the next fiscal year. He said the negative factor is currently a 16-percent reduction — or $19 million — of revenue the district should be receiving and that district officials project the negative factor will increase to 16.9 percent next year.
    Fiedler said district officials have known for a long time where 27J ranks against other districts in the area in regards to funding from the School Finance Act and mill levies, but he wanted to know how it stacked up against other school districts in the state.
    “I’m sorry to share that we have the dubious honor of ranking 172nd out of 178 school districts in the state,” Fiedler said, pointing out there are only six school districts in the state who receive less funding than 27J.
    School Board President Joan Kniss said she was “shocked.”
    Fiedler said it is all the more reason to be proud of all of the schools in the district, as miracles are performed every day.
    “We have lots of work to do in terms of student achievement, but let me tell you that I’m proud of our staff and communities for the way that they support our kids with what we got,” he said.
    Fiedler also told the board salary expenditures in the transportation department have decreased by about 12 percent since the 2011 fiscal year, which translates to a $330,000 savings for the district. He said auditors noticed the decrease and found that Transportation Director Edie Dunbar had reduced driver check-in time before shifts, has Sam Hill refueling buses on site and has standardized bus drivers time dedicated to cleaning and paperwork.
    “Congratulations to Edie and her entire staff,” he said.
    In other business:
    — The board will continue to support the district’s Capital Facility Fee Foundation. A resolution declaring the continued support of the foundation was passed 5-0 by the board. The Capital Facility Fee Foundation is a non-profit foundation that was established in 2001 and has received more than $10 million from builders and developers in its first 10 years of operation.
    — The board learned more about the reapportionment of the director districts directors will be considering during the Dec. 11 board meeting. State law requires school districts to reapportion their director districts every four years.
    — The board approved the membership of the district’s Accountability Committee and asked it to review the disparities in academic achievements for minorities in the district.
    — Northeast Elementary School Principal Michael Clow, staff and students told board members about what they’re doing to earn the designation of an International Baccalaureate School.
    The next board of education meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at Stuart Middle School. A study session will take place prior to the meeting at 5:30 p.m.