"It's a huge relief to the whole organization," Superintendent Mark MacHale said. "Even several months ago we were looking at a pretty significant cut."
MacHale is new to the district this year and knows his organization dodge a bullet when more-than-anticipated funding came down from the state.
Still, Montrose County is looking at a $400,000 shortfall but will use some of its reserve funding to offset the cost.
"We've been saving for a rainy day and it's pouring outside," MacHale described.
Also using some of its reserves, the district plans to hire four new teachers to help with class sizes, five Reading Interventionist/Academic Coaches, and one technology staff member.
"My crystal ball is pretty cloudy; all indicators coming out of Denver look like we're in a slight climb in the state," MacHale said. "So, we are cautiously optimistic that we won't get another cut."
"We wouldn't be spending money if we weren't confident that the picture was starting to stabilize."
District leaders expect student enrollment levels to remain the same.
MacHale's salary of $135,000 will remain frozen next year and comes in $1,102 less than his predecessor, Dr. George Voorhis, who earned $136,102 in 2010.
In Delta, Dr. Jerre Doss takes over the task of cutting over a million dollars from last year's superintendent, Mike McMillan.
Facing a $1.2 million shortfall for 2012, district leaders hope staff turnover, administrative re-organization, and small, temporary cuts to programs like Special Education will help meet that figure.
"Those cuts are less difficult than people," Dr. Doss said. "For the most part, those have not impacted our programs. They may impact purchase of new equipment for next year and some of the supplies."
The district will move forward with one layoff in its Technical College program and will not fill an additional five positions. It does expect student enrollment to remain the same.
Dr. Doss' salary, which started in February at $500 dollars above his predecessor, covers rising benefit costs and is frozen for next year, he said.
In the largest school district on the Western Slope, Mesa County's District 51, the numbers still are not nailed down.
"We hope to present budget to the Board on May 22nd," Communications Director Christy McGee said last month.
Looking at anywhere between $2 million and $4 million in cuts ahead of 2012, the district hasn't publicized its final decisions but has announced what is off the table.
In March, four-day weeks and school closures were nixed as possible budget cut measures going into 2012. But after failing in it's bid for a mill levy, District 51 is now hoping less staff with help offset the cuts.
District 51 School Board members hope retirements will help cut over $1 million. the district has also started to eliminate teaching and support staff positions.
Additionally, we're told the Board has approved a 15% cut in administrative staff levels.
District officials won't publicly comment on those cuts until they are publicly announced at an upcoming budget meeting. But Superintendent Steve Schultz, who saw his pay decrease in each of the last two years to $147,116 in 2011-2012, has already waived his contractual raise for 2012-2013.
"I will not take any increase in compensation while we're asking employees to sacrifice or the community," Schultz told us in May of 2011.
District 51 did not provide us with projected numbers of enrollment and staffing for 2012-2013 following our requests.
Taking into account the cuts seen around western Colorado and some of the stabilization, some are shocked to find out that every single one of the districts we've profiled is considering raises for district staff.
At Garfield Number 16, district officials have approved the use of roughly $320,000 in reserve funds to pay for a 3% raise district-wide. Superintendent Haptonstall will be see more money as well with a bump of his salary from $126,698 to $131,522.