Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger gave a detailed outline of the proposed 2017-18 budget Tuesday night to about 15 people at Durango High School.
The district has $51,275,974 at its disposal, an increase of about $3.5 million from last year. This is in part due to the allocation of funds approved by 63 percent of voters last November. The property tax increase, effective this year, will bring in an additional $1.7 million to the district.
Transparency with the use of the 3A dollars was important to the board, according to Snowberger.
“The board has committed to publish detailed use of the 3A monies ... to ensure trust recognizing how much support was given by our local taxpayers,” he said.
9-R also will receive an additional $1,477,281 from its affiliation with Colorado Connections Academy. “We are seeing an increase of students at the academy and therefore will be bringing in more money,” Snowberger said.
“We often connect our kids to supplemental learning through the service, like if they want to take a class not offered at their school.”
A notable expenditure on the budget is salary and benefits for teachers.
Over $36 million, or 81.9 percent of the total budget, will go toward salary. This includes the expected ratification of a new teacher salary.
“Two-thirds of our teaching staff make less than $50 thousand a year,” Snowberger said.
“As you all know, it is expensive to live in this town. Our hope is to increase the starting salary for all teachers to $40 thousand.”
After severing ties with the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, 9-R plans to hire additional staff to meet special education needs. Almost $2.5 million will go toward special education.
“We are using this money to increase our staff,” Snowberger said. “We want to shift our model to a direct-service model ... to have hands-on experience with our kids.” An interpreter and behavioral specialist are just two of the anticipated new positions.
Snowberger said about $1.2 million is invested in capital projects every year and that is expected to continue. “Every school is being touched by projects this upcoming year. We will talk more in-depth with our financial advisory council on Friday about these costs,” he said.
The majority of the 3A money will be invested in four categories: critical programs that support college- and workforce-ready graduates; minimizing increased class sizes and loss of educational programs; maintaining the ability to attract, retain and train staff; and ensuring safe and effective learning environments.
“These are four broad topics we know we need to invest in over time to have a positive impact on our district,” Snowberger said.
“Our first attempt is to restore programs lost, especially at Durango High School. We are working hard to put a Chinese culture class at DHS and Escalante Middle School. We are working to get a visa for a teacher for this class who taught in China for a number of years.”
Culinary arts, animal science and computer science are additional expected classes.
The crowd in attendance appeared satisfied with the proposed budget. A few people asked for clarification of certain topics but showed no opposition.
“A detailed draft of the budget will be on the board agenda Friday,” Snowberger said.
“Next Tuesday, the board holds their public meeting, and we encourage anyone who has input to share it then.”
The board is expected to approve the finished budget by mid-June. Any changes to the proposed budget will be tracked and made available to view online.