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Publish Date: 5/20/2005

St. Vrain: 65 percent of funds go to classrooms
Lawmaker pushing to make sure all school districts follow suit


DENVER — Under at least one official measurement, the St. Vrain Valley School District already is spending more than 65 percent of its annual general operating budget on instruction expenses, according to Mark Pillmore, the district’s chief financial officer.

It is unclear, however, whether St. Vrain’s classroom-related spending would continue to exceed that 65 percent threshold under a proposed ballot initiative that House Minority Leader Joe Stengel is proposing to petition onto next year’s state election ballot.

The Littleton Republican’s proposal would require that Colorado’s 178 school districts spend at least 65 cents of every operating-budget dollar on classroom-instruction expenses, such as salaries and benefits paid to teachers, teacher aides and librarians and the costs of instructional supplies and equipment.

According to Stengel, the St. Vrain Valley School District spent about 60 percent of its 2002-03 operating budget on instruction expenses.

Pillmore, however, said Wednesday that under the Colorado Department of Education’s current financial-reporting categories, the district spent 67 percent of its $115.9 million operating budget for 2002-03 and 68 percent of its $110 million operating budget for 2003-04 on instruction.

Instruction expenses, according to the CDE, include expenses related to activities dealing directly with the interactions between the district’s staff and its students, Pillmore said.

Barring major changes in CDE’s current accounting codes, though, St. Vrain will continue to meet or exceed the 65 percent benchmark, Pillmore said.

“What we’re all about is educating our students, and that’s the bottom line,” Pillmore said.

On Tuesday, Stengel cited St. Vrain as an example of how districts can shift spending priorities from administrative and other outside-the-classroom support services to classroom instruction.

St. Vrain had to close a $13.9 million budget gap and accomplished it, at state Treasurer Mike Coffman’s insistence, without focusing cuts on the classroom, Stengel said.

Pillmore on Wednesday also noted that, as part of St. Vrain’s agreement with Coffman, the district reduced its administrative costs by more than $2.2 million in 2003-04.

That experience might make it easier for St. Vrain to conform to the 65 percent classroom-spending threshold Stengel is pushing, Pillmore said, than may be the case with other school districts.

John Fryar can be reached at jfryar@times-call.com.

 

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