At a recent Jeffco School Board meeting, Interim Chief Financial Officer, Nicole Stewart, gave a presentation asking board members for input on where to make needed cuts in the 2021-22 budget. The …
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At a recent Jeffco School Board meeting, Interim Chief Financial Officer, Nicole Stewart, gave a presentation asking board members for input on where to make needed cuts in the 2021-22 budget.
The District, Stewart said, is looking at the need to make $54 million in reductions in order to balance the budget. She said district staff has identified most of the reductions but needed the board’s input on finding approximately $12 million in additional cuts.
COVID is the culprit.
“The $54 million reduction primarily is from the increase in the Budget Stabilization factor from the State. An increase in the BS factor, decreases school districts funding. This was a direct result of COVID,” Stewart said. “Earlier in the session, it was proposed that we would be seeing an increase in funding, then when the pandemic hit, it dramatically shifted to a significant decrease. Instead of making reductions in the 2020-21 school year as a result of the increase in the BS factor, we used CARES funding to keep from having to make reductions. However, that is not a sustainable plan, and now are having to right size our ongoing expenditures with the ongoing decrease of funding we received.”
Stewart said the District recognizes that using reserves is needed.
“With a $30 million use of reserves and identified central reductions of $11.33 million, we still have a shortfall of $12.67 million,” she said.
Recommendations by the District Accountability Committee (DAC) advocated for those reductions to avoid three areas — cuts that would affect classroom teachers, cuts impacting the classroom learning experience and cuts to mental/behavioral health supports.
The DAC also received a revised recommendation from the Community Budget Workgroup that called for a spend down of reserves in the amount of $34 million, centralized reductions (reductions that do not directly impact the student experience, such as Facilities/Custodial Support, Communications/Finance/Human Resources/Employee Relations etc), furlough days, student-based budgeting and compensation reductions, in that order.
Stewart stressed that there was community engagement over the last several months in the form of an online budget survey, and members of the community dialoging with board members, that contributed to the DAC recommendations.
She said results of that community engagement helped define and prioritize the types of cuts people would be most willing to accept. It also showed which cuts they could tolerate if necessary and which cuts they were unlikely to support.
For example, community feedback showed an overwhelming resistance to reductions to school-based expenditures or student mental health supports.
The highest degree of support was for spending down reserves. There was very little support for cutting staff retention and recruiting efforts in the district.
According to the presentation, nearly 4,000 people responded to the survey. Of those who responded, 45% were staff and 55% were non-staff.
Areas district staff said were viable options to find some of that $12.67 million in cuts include ongoing transportation, custodial services and school improvement funds. Areas considered off-limits due to previous board feedback include educational research & design, and career tech education (CTE).
Other areas still on the table for one-time cuts include operations, technology, staff furlough days and student-based budgeting.
It’s possible that the District could get federal funding for next school year through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), but Jeffco has not yet completed the application process for that federal money. Stewart said part of the ESSER funds, if received, would go toward addressing learning losses due to the pandemic.
In the end, board members reached consensus in proposed areas for budget cuts: one-time tech expenses, ongoing transportation and custodial funds, at least one furlough day, an undetermined amount of capital transfer and some professional development funds.
Suggestions from the board on where to make cuts will not be final until May, allowing members to make changes to their list of cuts before final adoption of the budget.
Stewart said the next step for the district is to take the board’s collective cuts list and use it to build out the proposed budget which will come back before the board for further review in May.
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