With school districts feeling the squeeze of budget cuts in recent years, the Town of Windsor is looking at ways it could share a portion of its oil and gas revenues with Windsor students.
Windsor Town Board members met with representatives from Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District, Thompson RJ-2 School District and Poudre School District in a Jan. 6 work session to get more information about how the districts receive funding, and what funding needs they currently face.
The board hosted the meeting to explore the topic, and have made no decisions yet about what a possible agreement between the town and the districts would look like, board member Kristie Melendez said.
Mayor John Vazquez, a former member of the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School Board, first raised the topic of sharing oil and gas revenues with Windsor students with board members about a month ago, Melendez said.
Vazquez did not attend the Jan. 6 work session because he was out of town, but discussed the topic during an interview Jan. 8.
“Our school districts in northern Colorado and rural communities have challenges financially mainly because of the way school finance is in Colorado,” Vazquez said. “I spent five years on the school board and I know the challenges that our districts go through. So, I hope that I can garner enough support from the town board that we could take a percentage of these new revenues that are not tax dollars, and put them into the classroom. I call it energy for education.”
The town currently has 41 oil- and gas-producing wells, and the revenue generated by the wells depends how much the well is producing and the town’s percentage of owner interest, Town Manager Kelly Arnold said.
In 2013, the town received a total of $149,811.10 in royalties from the wells, not including bonus royalties, Arnold said.
Melendez said the town board has already decided to dedicate a portion of the revenues for road improvements.
Representatives from the three district discussed how the state calculates each district’s finances based on the number of students in the district on Oct. 1 each year. Each district’s finances are then reduced by a negative factor, which amounted to a 15.43 percent budget reduction for the districts in the 2013-14 school year.
Poudre School District Superintendent Sandra Smyser said the state enacted the negative factor to address state budget shortfalls during the recession.
“We’re hearing that there will be no adjustment to the negative factor [for the 2014-2015 school year],” Poudre School District Budget Manager Dave Montoya said.
Windsor board member Don Thompson said he’s an advocate for the idea of sharing a portion of the town’s oil and gas revenue, but the board has the responsibility to its constituents to make sure the revenues are spent responsibly.
“From my point of view, I’d like to see it go into something that is direct benefit to students,” he said. “Perhaps there are specific things like a software need or maybe a particular school that has needs.”
Board member Ivan Adams said he’d like to see the money go toward the benefit of all town taxpayers’ students.
“I’d just like to say thank you,” Smyser said. “For the idea that our government, at least locally, really cares about our kids.”