TSD1 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Paul Jussila explains

TSD1 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Paul Jussila explains the reasoning behind why he, along with Business Manager Bill Cordova, felt it in the boards best interest to declare fiscal exigency, which did not receive approval.

Opening up the regular board meeting for Trinidad School District No. 1 (TSD1) on Wednesday, July 22, Superintendent for the Hoehne School District, Joe DeAngelis shared that they had discovered a formality recently regarding two Hoehne bus routes operating within the Trinidad district.

 “When we did our ballot initiative in November, we found out there was a section that we thought was in Hoehne School District, which is not,” said DeAngelis. “It’s actually in the Trinidad School District. We are here requesting that we continue to have two bus stops in this area. It’s in the Pinon Terrace development. It has been this way since 1959.”

DeAngelis passed around maps of the identified area and explained the taxes for the area had been going to Trinidad, not Hoehne. During discussion of approval to allow Hoehne to continue, several board members expressed this was not the first time the issue had come up and in the past, they had voted it down.

“Approximately five years ago, the very same question had arisen,” said TSD1 Business Manager Bill Cordova. “The Trinidad District respectfully declined to allow them to continue.”

Put up to a vote, the board decided again to decline the request. DeAngelis had stated that the district already had an alternative plan in that event.

Also during public comment, President of The Youth Club of Trinidad Carlos Lopez and Executive Director Sadie Brown came forward during public comments to offer their support and facilities should they be needed by the district. The local youth center recently did some outside upgrades just before opening with limited capacity.

“We’re getting ready for school to go back into session this fall,” said Lopez. “We just wanted to let you know that whatever you choose to do, we are here to be supportive of School District No. 1 and if that means we take on some of your kids to help with online capacity learning, we are implementing a higher speed wifi in our building just in case of that need. We are here to be a supplemental asset for TSD1.”

Following Lopez, Donna Raught joined the meeting via online and expressed her concerns regarding the potential declaration of fiscal emergency, which was to be decided on later in the meeting. After reviewing budgets for the district compared to what the state will be providing, Raught said she didn’t think the district had grounds based on the statute’s requirements.

“As you will see when you read the statute, it requires the anticipated revenues specified in the budget and the amounts appropriated for the budget for expenditures exceed the actual revenues available to the school district,” said Raught. “As I reviewed your working proposal I looked at the total program funding that was budgeted and I compared it to what CDE is saying you are going to receive this coming school year.

Raught went on to state that the property taxes TSD1 had budgeted was just over $1.5 million and the CDE said they would be receiving a little over $1.6 million. With specific ownership taxes, CDE stated the district would be getting $228,874 and the district had budgeted a little over $200,000.

“For total program, CDE says your going to receive a little over $6.5 million,” said Raught, “and you’ve budgeted $6.18 million. Your overall total program funding you have budgeted is $8,293,132. The state share says you’re going to be getting $8,402,410, which is a difference of about $110,000. You also received a little over $1 million in federal funding through the CARES Act and URSA as grant funds. I don’t think you meet the requirement for fiscal emergency that the statute requires you to meet.”

Part of declaring the exigency was to allow the district freedom to make tough decisions down the line of laying off staff should it be needed. School Board CFO Paul Jussila expressed that it was not the intent of the district to have to let anyone go, but only to have some flexibility to move forward as prepared as possible.

“It’s important for us to maintain fiscal flexibility while being prepared for any unexpected expenses that are going to come about,” said Jussila. “The true impact of COVID has yet to be felt. The state has told us that it could take three years for us to fully recover from this.”

Even still, the majority of the board thought it sent a bad message to the teachers and as it was not currently a problem, voted against the fiscal exigency until the point in time that it becomes absolutely necessary.

The board also heard a presentation regarding the plan moving forward with beginning school on Tuesday, September 8 from Superintendent Dr. Bonnie Aaron and Learning Services Coordinator Selina Vallejos.

Both explained that over the past few weeks, a team of about 25 staff made up the committee that has been reviewing CDE and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), have been developing a plan to return to school with a “hybrid” school model. Aaron said that they would also be developing just as sound plans for remote or fully in-person learning, depending on how things go before school starts. Having other plans in place would also help to quickly shift to remote should it be required by the local health department.

“Some of the current plans are less restrictive than we originally had planned, which made some of the logistical problems like transportation easier to work out,” said Aaron. “Now we have to send a plan to the local county health department.”

Aaron also said while it would be up to the district to submit a plan, it was ultimately up to the health department to decide what back to school will look like come September 8.

“We will finalize our plans next week and we have survey results from our households we called,” said Aaron, “but the plan is kind of already given to us through the state health department.”

That said, should COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide, as well as locally, the hybrid plan could shift to remote at a moment’s notice should the health department deem it the safest option.

In other business at the meeting, the school board approved resignations for Social Studies middle school teacher Mark Macaluso and Maintenance Director Benjamin Gonzales.

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