The Pueblo West View

District 70 board agrees to cut $500K

Pueblo County District 70’s school board made a move Wednesday night toward balancing the 2014-15 budget by agreeing to cut nearly $500,000 in transportation costs.

The board unanimously approved the cuts in transportation as it continues to look for ways to trim an anticipated $2.1 million from the 2014-15 budget without impacting the classroom.

Ryan Elarton, director of business services, told the board the preliminary general fund budget for next year is $56.4 million, an $870,000 increase from the current budget.

The increase, however, is not enough to offset such things as increased costs for utilities, the mandated contributions to the employee retirement account and any potential salary increases negotiated with the Pueblo County Education Association.

Elarton said in the past that as the state continued to make huge cuts in public education, District 70 had relied on money from its reserve account to balance the budget.

He said that option is no longer feasible.

“Over time, we have drawn down on those reserves,” he said. “We must balance this budget without using reserves.”

The district has approximately $1.8 million in its reserve account.

The cuts approved by the board in transportation include reducing the number of elementary and middle school routes by increasing the walking distance for those students.

The change also will eliminate most midday routes, drop the benefits for bus drivers paid as part of the contract with First Student.

First Student provides transportation service to the district.

Elarton said district leaders have proposed cuts in several other areas to include technical support, out-of-district placement of students and central administration and other departmental budgets.

Superintendent Ed Smith is proposing to slash his budget by 50 percent and the school board will reduce its budget by 28 percent.

All budget cuts must be approved by the school board before they can be implemented.

The board is scheduled to vote on other potential cuts and a 2014-15 budget at its June 24 meeting.

The state requires school boards to approve a balanced budget by June 30.

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The Pueblo West View