Another school 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. This last spring was a tough budget season, as the district couldn’t count on any new funding from the State of Colorado due to the constitutional crisis that continues exists. We appreciate that our employees are returning this year, even without any cost of living or pay increases in order to prevent further cuts. While this is rare in Durango, the fiscal crisis certainly has come to a head on K-12 education across the state.
Since my arrival, we have cut over $2 million in annual spending while still maintaining smaller class sizes than the state. 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 district, the future of our programs, and most importantly – our students! I certainly hope that stakeholders in the community seek out facts and don’t get caught up in the single issue conversations. We’ve held more than six budget meetings this year alone, and I remain available to meet with any stakeholder to continue to share and discuss facts.
Like other entities, Durango School District 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 home in the City of Durango, it allows an investment next year of approximately $1.7 million into our schools and our programs. Failure to infuse new funds in the district will likely result in further loss of programs, increased class sizes, and hinder our ability to retain and attract great staff to support our kids. This is a sad reality of where our state is with regards to K-12 funding. See our Budget Guide for more facts and details.
No single issue affecting our schools today may poll in our community as being “most” important, whether it is funding full-day kindergarten, transportation services, career and technical educational opportunities, smaller class sizes, etc. What I am proud of is the results that this district and its great team of educators, accomplishes each and every day. Each year, we send 250+ graduates ready to lead our world into a brighter future. While there are always opportunities for improvement here within the district, the continued dialogue is of great importance, and disagreements are likely. Let’s agree that our kids are worth the investment. They are our future!
Lastly, some may question the inclusion of our two Colorado Charter School Institute schools in this mill levy. In 2010, the community lacked alignment and agreement on these schools, which have afforded additional opportunities for educational choice for our youth. Those funds achieved in the last mill levy were not shared as a result of this division. These schools operate on base funding and also have a negative factor, 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 we are happy to partner with them.
There are a lot of asks this year and we appreciate your looking carefully at all of them. This is a great community and we in no way want to compete against the many valid needs in our community. 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.