School board considers drawing down reserves

The Clear Creek school board is considering pulling $1 million from its reserves, and the district’s facilities team has plans on how to spend it.

Currently, the school district has a high percentage of money in reserve accounts — 86% of its adopted budget expenditures — when board policy says that amount should be 15%. Reserve accounts are like savings accounts. Superintendent Karen Quanbeck has said that 15% is too little but 86% is too high to pay district bills in the event of an emergency.

District Business Manager Hollie Harlan recommended to the board at its April 14 work session that the reserves should be at 42%, which would equate to $4.5 million. The school board will need to change district policy to adopt a new percentage.

To bring the reserves to 42%, the district could pull $3.1 million in one-time dollars, and Harlan is recommending taking the first $1 million out for the 2022-23 school year. She said the reserves are high thanks to grant dollars and additional funding the school district has received in the last few years.

Quanbeck said while the two bonds approved by voters in the last several years has paid for a number of projects and a new elementary school, the district has even more projects that have been pushed off.

“(The $33 million bond) is very specifically for projects that are essential to who we are as a district,” Quanbeck said, “but it doesn’t scratch the surface on projects that have been building up over the years.”

Justin Watanbe, the district’s director of maintenance, has suggested that the district spend $1.17 million in this manner:

  • $350,000 to replace the King-Murphy preschool playground, which is important since the district is adding a second preschool classroom to the building. A $5 million bond approved by voters in 2018 paid to replace the playgrounds at the district’s three elementary schools but not the preschool playground at King-Murphy. Carlson will get a new preschool playground when the new school is built inside the former middle school thanks to the $33 million bond approved by voters in 2021.
  • $727,000 to replace the roof at King-Murphy: Watanabe said the roof is past its useful life and needs to be addressed.
  • $44,000 to replace the kitchen hood suppression system and exhaust system at King-Murphy: Watanabe said the two systems are past their useful lives, and parts are no longer available to replace worn or broken parts.
  • $25,000 to pay for a site master place for the ball fields and parking lot at Clear Creek High School: Watanabe said the baseball field needs a lot of work, in addition to making plans for other improvements behind CCHS.
  • $25,000 to hire an expert to look at cracks in the high school building: “The building isn’t falling down,” Watanabe told the board. “Those cracks could have been there for years, but no one has addressed them. We need to get a structural engineer to take a look.”

Filling a school board member seat

The Clear Creek school board needs to appoint a new board member from the west part of the district.

Larry Pyers, who has served on the board for four years, has resigned, citing a change in his personal circumstances.

An application letter from those living in District E must be submitted to Athena Iglesias or Robin Payne by noon May 4. The letter should include information about qualifications and reasons for applying.

To be eligible, a candidate must have been a resident of the school district and a registered voter for 12 months and a resident of District E. Check the boundary map at to make sure you live within District E.

Email the letter to or with the subject line Board Letter of Interest. Or mail the letter to Clear Creek School District, P.O. Box 3399, Idaho Springs, CO 80452.

The board expects to interview prospective candidates at a public meeting at 9 a.m. May 13.

Negotiations continue on staff compensation

The Clear Creek school board is in the midst of negotiations with the district’s unions with compensation in mind.

Teachers have asked for a 15% salary increase for the 2022-23 school year, while the support staff asked to increase the hourly wage to $20. The compensation package for all employees must be incorporated into the next year’s budget that must be approved in June.

Teachers, including representatives of the Clear Creek County Education Association and education support professionals, spoke at the March 15 school board meeting, explaining that while they loved their jobs, they needed to be paid not just a living wage, but what one educator called a professional wage.

Superintendent Karen Quanbeck said at the April 14 meeting that while many differences exist between the Clear Creek and Jeffco school districts, Clear Creek still competes for educators, especially where salary is concerned. She added, though, that Clear Creek implementing a four-day school week in August should help with teacher retention.

“We always do our best work to pay our educators and all staff in Clear Creek wages that are sustainable,” Quanbeck said. “We are not yet competitive with surrounding districts.”