School-level cuts, furlough days included in Jeffco Public Schools budget suggestions

Board gets more specific on budget direction next year

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/13/20

Jeffco Public Schools leaders are continuing to build the 2020-2021 academic year budget, and while the state has yet to give a final number on the cuts JPS is looking at, school board members did …

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School-level cuts, furlough days included in Jeffco Public Schools budget suggestions

Board gets more specific on budget direction next year

Posted

Jeffco Public Schools leaders are continuing to build the 2020-2021 academic year budget, and while the state has yet to give a final number on the cuts JPS is looking at, school board members did give some specificity on what they would like to see during a May 13 study session.

The session began with chief financial officer Kathleen Askelson saying that, as has happened several times since March, the budget forecast has become bleaker than previously expected.

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The district is now expecting that, because of a projected decrease in education funding of about $74.3 million from the state, Jeffco will need to cut more than $70 million of its budget next year.

Askelson and the financial team proposed one option for getting to this number. First, the district could soften the blow with about $39 million from its approximate $88.5 million reserve fund.

A remaining $32.5 million in cuts could be covered through:

  • $3 million in this year's savings.
  • $5 million in central department reductions. The list of reductions has not been finalized, Askelson said. But she did give the possible ramifications of cuts — the slowing of IT projects and response times, reduced custodial service and fewer school bus routes — as examples of what could come of certain cuts to central departments.
  • $1 million through cutting the district's Innovation Fund, which awards student and staff ideas to better education. Winners are selected for three years, and those who have already been selected will be funded throughout those years, but new applications will not be accepted in the future.
  • $5 million through cutting each school's Student-Based Budgeting (SBB) funds by 1%.
  • $2.2 million through eliminating school improvement funding, which schools in turnaround or improvement status can use for resources, such as additional employees.
  • $5.5 million by reducing the district's capital transfer.
  • $10.8 million by implementing three furlough days for every staff member.

If the budget situation improved, items at the bottom of the list could be avoided, Askelson said.

Board discussion centered on several topics, including the use of reserve funds.

“I am absolutely in favor of using the reserve funds, but $39 million almost makes it sound like a one-year allocation of what we can use as reserve funds,” board member Ron Mitchell said.

In other words, reserve funding is one-time funding. Further, the district must keep a certain amount in reserves each year by law; Askelson estimated that the most the district could pull from reserves next year would be around $29 million, leaving some expenses unaccounted for.

Board members also worried about the extent of the capital transfer reduction, with Mitchell stating it would be difficult for a future board to build back to the original amount, even in better financial times.

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Meanwhile, the members were split on the logistics of the furlough days proposal. Board member Stephanie Schooley questioned if all employees should take three furlough days.

“Equity is not equality,” she said, meaning it might be better if staff members who would be less financially impacted took more furlough days than those more impacted.

However, board president Susan Harmon warned that a disproportionate approach to furlough days could be seen as a value statement in favor of or against certain groups of employees.

The board told Glass it would soon get back to the district team with direction on how to approach the furlough days.

Meanwhile, Glass said the team would focus on building a budget with smaller reductions to the reserve fund and capital transfer to present to the board at a later date.

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