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Jefferson County School Dist. 251 faces $1.1 million deficit

A local school district is in trouble.

Jefferson County School District 251 Superintendent Ron Tolman said the money problems are all but out of his hands, unless he resorts to serious cuts.

“You start looking at really drastically changing the face of education,” Tolman said, as he’s facing an uphill battle. “I think we’re seeing a tendency to invest smaller and smaller percentages of state revenue in public education.”

Add cuts in state funding to an ever-growing student population in Jefferson County (2-4% each year), and the district has a deficit to the tune of $1.1 million.

“For us, it’s finally reached a critical mass,” Tolman said.

Tolman said he would have to significantly slash teacher salaries, extracurriculars, textbooks and technology unless something changes.

That’s why he’s proposed a $3 million supplemental levy.

“No one wants to raise taxes, but we have had a significant number of parents that have said, ‘Our students are too important not to consider it,'” Tolman said.

That $3 million would barely be enough to stay afloat, according to Tolman.

“We’re trying to do the same thing we were four years ago, with $2.5 million less,” Tolman explained.

Jefferson County Schools have lost about $7.6 million in revenue since 2009.

Tolman has been meeting with state lawmakers in hopes of getting that funding back.

“Some [lawmakers] were very cognizant of the problem and willing to look for solutions, and that’s been very encouraging and helpful,” Tolman said.

Voters will be able to decide on the supplemental levy in March. According to Tolman, it would be the first ever for Jefferson County Schools, and the 87th school district statewide operating on a supplemental levy.

School budget cuts would kick in for the 2013-2014 school year.

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