"It hurts more for us, just because we have high needs," said Chandler, superintendent of Adams 14 Schools.
Tuesday night, the school board is holding its first public hearing on the proposed budget for next year. With added expenditures of nearly $800,000, the district is looking at a budget gap of about $4.4 million.
Chandler says the likely result is a reduction of 60 staff positions including about 20 teachers. Schools will also have fewer materials and fewer opportunities for professional development.
"We're looking at being reduced right now when we're looking at we need to provide more services," Chandler said. "We need a longer school day. We need more schools days."
The Adams 14 School District is smaller than is surrounding neighbors like Jefferson County and Denver. Chandler says that means she has fewer pieces to move around.
Yet, the district still deals with many of the urban issues such as a high number of immigrant students living in low income areas. All of the district's schools, except one, are labeled by the federal government as Title I.
"When you are looking at poor socio-economics, yes, you are looking at more issues," Chandler said.
The district will consider making changes in the transportation department and may have to get rid of much needed instructors such as literacy coaches for struggling students. Chandler's biggest concern is the reduction in teachers will lead to increase in class sizes.
"It's not fair. It's not fair to our students," Chandler said.
Crowded classrooms are already a problem in the district which will not get worse.
"Having 32 students, I think the greatest challenge is giving the students enough one-on-one attention," said Kathy Hughes, a fourth grade teacher at Central Elementary.
Hughes says her reading class grows to 35 students which almost twice the number of kids she had in her reading group last year.
"It's frustrating mostly for the students, because I just see that they deserve more attention than what they're getting," Hughes said.
Chandler says she will try to keep class sizes in check. She says that will be difficult when her per pupil funding goes down from $7,500 to $6,700 in just two years - a change of 6 percent.
"Now, we are going to have to look at, you might have to merge some classes," Chandler said. "We're going to have to be creative."
Chandler says the district could have been looking at a staff reduction of 80 positions, but the current budget proposal calls for the district to dip into its reserves. The district will take about $1.3 million of it fund balance to save 20 jobs and support the remaining ones.
For many areas, asking voters to pass a mill levy override is often a remedy for budget problems. If taxpayers agree to pay higher property taxes, the district could receive millions of dollars more in revenue.
Chandler says Commerce City taxpayers can't always handle those extra costs.
"And that's very difficult for Commerce City," Chandler said. "Every penny is a penny and it's very important."
The school board will hold another public hearing on the budget at its meeting next month. It will vote on the proposal later this spring.
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