Jeffco Schools

Jeffco school distirct talks out budget priorities

Mental health supports, recruitment efforts and funding innovation among proposed $10.9 million in new spending request

Posted 3/13/18

More money for an online choice enrollment system, new hires, communications and mental health supports were on the discussion table March 5 when the Jefferson County Board of Education met for a …

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Jeffco Schools

Jeffco school distirct talks out budget priorities

Mental health supports, recruitment efforts and funding innovation among proposed $10.9 million in new spending request

Posted

More money for an online choice enrollment system, new hires, communications and mental health supports were on the discussion table March 5 when the Jefferson County Board of Education met for a study session to discuss the proposed 2018-2019 budget. This was the first detailed discussion the board has had with staff regarding next year’s budget.

“What makes this time of year really hard is there is practically nothing we do in education that isn’t valuable,” said Jeffco schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass. “I am upfront acknowledging that this is a tough process.”

Glass and staff presented the board with a request for $10.93 million in additional, and on-going, funds in a budget presentation on March 1, ahead of the March 5 board study session.

Of the requested increases, $1 million would cover mandated costs including an increase in property insurance premiums for district buildings.

Another $547,189 would go toward implementing an online enrollment system.

The online enrollment system would create a searchable database for parents and students to apply for enrollment at their top choice schools without having to visit each school for a paper and pencil application.

Glass explained that this would take a system that only parents with the time and resources could really use, and would allow the same access to everyone while also centralizing the system. The goal is to have the program up and running for the 2019 choice enrollment period.

This expenditure was scrutinized by the board as not being a need, and for diverting money that could go toward differed building maintenance, teacher compensation or school-based budgets.

“I have a big question mark on this if it’s the right time to do it,” said board member Susan Harmon. “Concept wise, I like the idea of putting everyone out there. It’s easier if it’s all in one place. I struggle with process. We just changed website platforms.”

Board member Ali Lasell also raised questions about accessibility for families who do not have computers or internet readily available.

Other concerns were about how high the enrollment system upgrade compared to other asks on the high priority request list presented by staff.

“On this one, there is no urgency,” Glass said. “But we really felt like in light of the conversation around highlighting existing programs an the challenges the paper system creates — we felt like it as a good time.”

The remaining $9.3 million in ongoing asks come from 63 separate high priority requests from the district office. Continuous funding for the new Jeffco Innovation Acceleration Fund has the highest ask at $1 million.

The board approved $1 million of reserve dollars to be spent to launch the Innovation Fund in January. There were 104 applicants with a total ask of $9.5 million. Out of those, 51 applicants made it through round one and were asked to pitch their ideas to the selection committee.

“I want to fund this,” Lasell said. “I think it’s great and I love the enthusiasm district wide.”

Other increases suggested by staff include over $600,000 in additional mental health supports for students, specifically gifted and talented students.

Additional mental health supports is one budget increase requested by the District Accountability Committee. This recommendation was based off the school accountability committee survey results, which indicated student behavioral/mental health supports as the second highest priority among schools. The top request from all schools was for additional classroom teachers.

There are currently four mental health professionals housed at GT centers throughout the district who consult with all identified GT students. An additional $174,490 would hire two more full time specialists which would increase mental health services to the 85 percent of GT students outside center programs.

The superintendents office also requested $137,800 to hire a Chief Strategy Officer. This hire was questioned by the board.

“I don’t understand the function of this person,” said board member Brad Rupert.

Glass defended his request by explaining that this person would be solely focused on bringing the district’s strategic plan to life.

“What would be happening if we didn’t do this,” Glass said. “It means supports around strategic planning slows down. It will get .5 percent of my attention right now. But this would have someone 100 percent focused on it.”

Glass said hiring someone for this role would convey the importance of the work instead of burying it below the other responsibilities he has leading the district.

“The strategic plan should be driving all we are doing and we need someone solely focused on it,” he said.

But Rupert was cautious.

“We do have a community that is sensitive to how many administrative positions we have,” Rupert said. “We have gone through a number of cuts in all departments. So, when we add another admin role, I want to make sure we are careful in doing that.”

After a two hour discussion, the board directed staff to leave the list of recommendations as is until a later date when prioritization may need to take place.

“I think a great deal of work has gone into this list,” said board president Ron Mitchell. “I think that in general we can leave the list and see where we end up in terms of dollars to allocate and if necessary come back and reprioritize.”

Although the board still considered teacher compensation to be a priority, it was not included in this discussion because the district recently entered into negotiations with the various unions.

Final direction for the proposed budget is expected April 5 with a proposed budget public hearing on May 3 and final budget adoption on June 7.

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