School district seeking feedback with budget reductions possible

At first budget meeting, board says it will prioritize teacher pay

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/11/20

During an initial 2020-2021 budget presentation at the March 5 Board of Education meeting, board members were asked to name one or two budget priorities they have for this year. The four present …

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School district seeking feedback with budget reductions possible

At first budget meeting, board says it will prioritize teacher pay

Posted

During an initial 2020-2021 budget presentation at the March 5 Board of Education meeting, board members were asked to name one or two budget priorities they have for this year. The four present board members named the same priority at the top of their lists: Teacher compensation.

“There are other elevated priorities out there that have been lifted up over time,” said board president Susan Harmon, but this year, “I think priorities I have heard would be teacher compensation.” All of the board members agreed, save board member Ron Mitchell, who was absent.

The budget won’t be finalized until the summer, with the initial March meeting a chance for staff to give the board a general overview of available funds. In turn, board members provided direction on what they’d like to see in the budget.

This year, the board has about $17.6 million to spend, though the figure could vary, possibly by millions, depending on the state budget, said district chief financial officer Kathleen Askelson.

Meanwhile, for staff members to receive compensation increases based on the steps and lanes salary schedule, the district would need about $17 million — leaving almost no room for other new spending items.

Another option — to adjust employee salaries by 1% for the cost of living — would require about $6 million, said Superintendent Jason Glass.

However, board members said they also hope to prioritize the recommendations of the District Accountability Committee, made up of parents, community members and district staff. The committee’s recommendations included increasing Student-Based Budgeting (SBB) dollars to allow each school in Jeffco to hire one more teacher.

The proposal would cost about $16 million, while an alternative proposal — for each school to hire one new paraprofessional, or classroom aide — would cost about $2 million.

Rupert advocated for exploring the alternative option as a way of “getting a little more assistance in the classroom (and) doing it in a way that might still stay within our budget.”

Glass added the district has already prepared a possible group of budget reductions, resulting in an extra $2.1 million. If the board chose to make every cut listed, it would have $19.7 million to spend instead of the $17.6 million.

“They (the reductions) are not painless,” Glass said, “but they are the things we think we could cut and it wouldn’t be severely disruptive to our strategic plan and core operations.”

According to Budgeting for Outcomes forms submitted by each district-level department, some of the largest potential cuts include about $125,000 from the Athletics and Activities Department, primarily “reducing school transfers for equipment and supply funds;” about $300,000 ending the Homebound Instruction Program, which provides education for students who are too ill to attend school; and about $425,000 in reductions that would eliminate busing to option schools.

“If you wanted to go beyond that, we are ready to act on more district cuts. I will tell you that once we go beyond the $2.1 million, it starts to get disruptive,” Glass told the board. At “$4 million in district-level cuts, we will start spilling over into SBB (Student Based Budgeting funding). What we’ll effectively be doing is reducing the size of the organization.”

The cuts have not yet been made and the board has the power to make entirely different reductions, if it chooses to. These decisions will be made at future meetings, with a public hearing for the budget scheduled May 7 and its adoption scheduled for the following month.

Askelson and budget director Nicole Stewart said the district plans to open a community survey at some point in the week of March 9, asking Jeffco community members what they would like prioritized in the budget.

Jeffco also plans to schedule two in-person budget forums in April to collect the same information.

Board members said they planned to make their decisions based on this feedback, while also considering effects of the proposed cuts.

“Many of these things that we are contemplating are actually money-saving measures,” such as an adviser who oversees the employee exit process to avoid legal claims, Rupert said. “I want to be really careful in considering these things.”

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