Jeffco Schools: Budget health on upswing

Posted

Jeffco students will spend more time in the classroom next year, and teachers’ salaries will be restored to 2010 levels under a new school district budget approved May 30.

With a 4-1 vote, the Jefferson County Board of Education passed the 2013-2014 budget, which benefited from last year’s voter-approved mill levy override, and an increase in state revenues that will translate to greater district funding.

The district’s shift in fortune is notable, considering that it wasn’t that long ago that it had planned on 2013-2014 expenditure reductions totaling $45 million — coupled with the loss of 600 jobs.

But the new budget still falls short of full-funding status.

“We’re not entirely out of the woods,” said Board President Lesley Dahlkemper “We’re behaving cautiously and conservatively as we move forward.”

Dahlkemper, Jill Fellman, Robin Johnson and Paula Noonan voted in favor.

The lone no vote came from Laura Boggs, who expressed concern afterward that the district would end up having to make more spending reductions down the road.

Boggs unsuccessfully tried to amend the budget to allow for the hiring of more teacher-librarians, the elimination of bus fees, and fees associated with advanced placement classes. And, Noonan sought to reduce student outdoor lab fees as “one small way to help (parents) out and their children out.”

However, the majority of the board’s members rejected those efforts.

Miller said that it “would be wonderful” for the district to be able do everything it wants, but that “this is not the ideal world right now.”

“If somebody can find a way to fund that, I’d love it,” she said.

Highlights of the new budget – which will operate from July 1 through June of next year – include fewer early release days for students, from nine last year to five for the coming school year.

This means that students will receive about six to eight hours of more classroom time, compared to last year.

School employees also benefit from the new budget.

Teachers will work four additional days next school year. And, after having experienced a three percent pay cut over the last few years, all Jeffco employees will see their pay restored to 2010 levels.

Also, employee furlough days will be eliminated from next year’s budget.

Jeffco will receive more money from the state than it has in recent budget cycles.

Thanks to improved revenues, the state, under the current School Finance Act, has legislated an overall increase in revenues to all schools for the first time since the 2009-2010 school year, according to budget documents.

With that funding, the district will see its per-pupil funding reach $6,540, an increase over recent budgets.

The total planned funding amount that the district has budgeted for the coming fiscal year is still about $48 million short of what was budgeted in the 2009-2010, according to budget information.

The new budget includes funds collected from the $39 million mill levy override that voters approved last year. But that money will not equate to the creation of new programs or restoration of old cuts.

Most of the funds from the override will go toward filling a $45 million budget gap that would have existed, had taxpayers not stepped in last year.

The district, which is made up of about 86,000 students and makes up 10 percent of the state’s school funding, has lost more than $78 million from its general funding operating expenditure budget over the last four years.

Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said before the meeting that the district still has funding problems, but that she is pleased with many aspects of the budget.

“We’re holding steady,” she said.

The budget does not take into account assumed bumps in revenue from Senate Bill 213, the Future School Finance Act. The bill, which overhauls the state’s school funding system, was recently signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

However, voters must approve the tax increases associated with the bill before it takes effect.

No comments on this story | Add your comment
Please log in or register to add your comment