Another year is upon us, and I’m happy to share that great things are once again in store for our students in Durango.
We’ve worked hard to keep budget cuts as far away from our students as possible. Last spring was a tough budget season, as the district couldn’t count on any new funding from the state of Colorado because of the constitutional crisis that continues to exist. We appreciate that our employees are returning this year, even without any cost-of-living or pay adjustment so that further deep cuts weren’t required. The fiscal crisis certainly has come to a head.
Since my arrival, we have cut over $2 million in annual spending while still maintaining smaller class sizes than the state average. We’ve lost some key programs, and we’ve trimmed overhead costs. Many will criticize specifics without looking at the whole. Failing to truly understand the challenge is a recipe for disaster for our students. We’ve held many forums, and our board members and I remain available to meet with any stakeholder to discuss facts.
Like many districts, 9-R will be seeking a mill levy override from voters this year to allow us to continue to invest in necessary programs, stave off further cuts and ensure safe and innovative schools. While this mill levy would result in a $3.75 contribution per month for the average $500,000 homeowner, it allows an investment next year of about $1.7 million into our schools. We certainly recognize that our commercial property owners will pay a higher rate.
Failures to infuse new funds in the district will likely result in further loss of programs, increased class size and our inability to continue to retain and attract great staff to serve our kids. It’s easy to sit back and pass judgment. What I am proud of is the results of what our schools, this great team of educators, accomplish each and every day. Each year, our public schools send 300-plus graduates ready to lead our world into a brighter future. We aren’t perfect, and there is always opportunity for us to improve. The dialogue is important and disagreement is likely. I hope we can all agree that our kids are worth the investment.
Some question our inclusion of our two charter schools in this mill levy. In 2010, the community was divided. As a result, those funds were not shared. These schools operate on an even smaller portion of base funding and must repeatedly turn to the community to close the gap through fundraising. This is a historic moment when we place equal value on all students in Durango. Our children benefit from all education entities, and I am happy to partner with them.
There are a lot of “asks” this year, and we appreciate your looking carefully at all of them. We ask you to get involved, understand the issues and the facts, and make your own decision about the need to invest in our children.
Email Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.