Feb 15, 2011 10:07 PM by Jeannette Hynes

Hickenlooper proposes cuts to schools, parks, prisons

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has put together his plan to balance the state budget with its billion-dollar shortfall.  The biggest cuts would come to Colorado's public schools.

"Make no mistake, the choices we are making today will hurt," says Governor Hickenlooper.

The Democrat's proposal would cut $375 million to public schools (K-12) and $36 million to public higher education.

The reception about this news is mixed.

"We were told last year to prepare for potentially losing half of that state support. This isn't near that. So, while it's still early, it's encouraging," explains Brian Burnett, UCCS Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance.

"It's the worst year so far," say Glenn Gustafson, Colorado Springs School District 11 Chief Financial Officer. "The state's still struggling for revenue and as a result, we're still feeling the pain in Colorado."

Gustafson says D-11 has already cut 15 million dollars from its budget.  This proposal, he estimates, would require the school district to cut another 15 million dollars.

"All we can talk really is about people. 85 percent of our budget is staffing so we have to talk about the number of people we have or how much we pay people," says Gustafson. "We are looking for every nickel."

Other proposed cuts:

- Closing the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas.

- Closing, or "repurposing" four state parks (Bonny Lake State Park, Sweitzer Lake State Park, Harvey Gap State Park, & Paonia State Park).

- Increasing the amount of money taken from state employees' pay to cover the state's cost of retirement.

State legislators will now spend their time looking over Hickenlooper's proposals and deciding where cuts should be made.






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