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Cortez schools declare critical teacher shortage

13 jobs unfilled; $22M budget OK’d
Cortez school board members on Tuesday declared a critical teacher shortage, which is affecting schools in the district, including Montezuma-Cortez High School.

Cortez school board members on Tuesday voted to declare a critical teacher and bus driver shortage.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Porter said 31 district staff members have resigned since the end of the school year, and 13 positions remained unfilled Tuesday.

Superintendent Lori Haukeness and board member Sherri Wright were absent from the board meeting.

Top reasons for the resignations were related to salaries, stress, health and separation from extended families, Porter said.

Colorado House Bill 1176, signed into law on June 6, modifies retirement regulations for public employees and allows rural schools to hire retired employees to cover shortages, according to the legislature’s website.

People who are rehired under the provisions of the bill can start work without a reduction of benefits. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, a Democrat from Durango.

Porter said the district would advertise open positions in larger areas, such as Denver, in an attempt to attract teachers. He said bus-driving positions are hard to fill, in part because of low pay and irregular work schedules.

Board passes budget

Also Tuesday, board members passed a budget resolution for the 2017-2018 school year.

Total revenue available for the district is projected at $22.38 million, according to budget documents, an increase of more than $1 million from last year’s budget.

Part of the increase is due to Senate Bill 267, which passed the state legislature in May and distributes $30 million in marijuana tax revenues to rural schools, according to the state’s website. District Finance Manager Carla Hoehn said she was not sure how the district would use its share of the onetime payout – about $472,122.

In her report to the board, Haukeness said the capital projects budget was a priority, because several building upgrades need to be addressed.

Total expenditures for the district are expected to be about $18.22 million, up about $1.2 million from last year.

Including the money from SB267, the district’s ending fund balance is expected to be about $4.55 million.

The district also will address about $1.2 million in Kinder Morgan tax revenue that has been held in reserve for several years.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of Montezuma County after a nine-year court battle in which the energy company said properties it owned in the county had been improperly assessed.

The school district gets some tax revenue from Kinder Morgan. But since the amount was in dispute, the district said it has not spent the tax revenue and has held it in reserve for several years.

Hoehn said it could be several months before a the district decides how to spend it.

Other board actions

Also at the meeting, the board voted to approve a $3,100 capital reserve expense to replace a restroom sink at Manaugh Elementary School. Board members also voted to approve a $7,930 capital reserve expense to resurface and fill cracks in the asphalt at the Kemper Elementary School playground.

Board members also voted to renew the district’s membership to the Colorado Association of School Boards at a cost of $11,429 and a policy support fee of $750.


Planning meeting scheduled

The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 district will host a strategic planning meeting, June 27 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Montezuma-Cortez High School.

Community members are invited to attend, and refreshments will be served.

The meeting will include a discussion on priorities for the district over the next several years, as board members consider drafting a comprehensive district plan. The district’s teacher shortage will also be a part of the discussion.

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