Springtime for schools also means budget season. In this post, we’ll take a look at the budget process for the next school year and how that’s shaping up.
Jeffco Public Schools is currently in the middle of our budgeting process for the next school year. School budgeting in Colorado is iterative – a process of making some assumptions and estimations about what we think will happen, then closely observing signs and decisions from the Colorado Legislature to check those assumptions, and finally making adjustments throughout the spring as things become clearer.
Based on our current assumptions today, Jeffco Public Schools is planning to receive around $37 million in new funds through the School Finance Act. This is determined entirely by the legislature, and this assumption can change. We move about $4 million of this to our charter schools (their proportionate share), which leaves us around $33 million in new funding for next year.
$33 million sounds like (and is) a lot of money. However, given the size of Jeffco Public Schools, we have to put it into context. Jeffco’s General Fund, which is the source from which most major expenses are paid (including things like how many teachers we have and their compensation), is currently $698 million. Therefore, this added $33 million is around a 4.7% increase.
We are appreciative of efforts at the legislature to bring these new funds to Jeffco. We also appreciate the advocacy people in our community have shown, making sure our legislators understand that education is a priority.
These potential new funds drop into backfilling a big budget hole created in school funding during the Great Recession that has never been refilled. Since 2010, Jeffco Public Schools has been underfunded $642 million compared to pre-recession levels. For this current budget year alone, our schools are being underfunded $75 million compared to pre-recession levels. While we are appreciative of potential new funds coming in this year, we also have to consider what was lost and not replaced, and that Colorado’s school funding level is weak nationally compared to other states
The new $33 million also goes quickly when considering an organization the size of Jeffco Public Schools. Here are some areas we are looking at for next year, which are still under negotiation and pending legislative action.
- Increasing compensation for our employees at about 2.7% to keep up with inflation and recognize their experience: $14.8 million.
- A 1% additional cost of living adjustment for employees, working to catch them up from years of pay freezes and reductions: $5.6 million.
- Potential increases to the PERA retirement system: $4.7 million.
- Keeping current building funds and staffing levels in place: $3.7 million.
- Increased costs for insurance, utilities, technology, and facilities upkeep: $2 million.
- Funding the district’s innovation acceleration fund: $1 million.
I hope this gives you some idea of where these funds could go and some of the choices we will need to make this spring to bring a final budget to the Board of Education for approval.
This $33 million in additional funding is by no means a lock. The legislature has a number of other priorities that are competing for finite resources. Things such as transportation, healthcare, higher education, and corrections are all important and big-ticket items. However, our kids matter too – and it is important that we continue to impress on our honorable legislators the importance of meeting our obligations to our kids and community when it comes to adequate school funding.
My next communication to you will look past this budget cycle and legislative session to some ideas that may appear on the ballot in the fall, and possibly even further down the road. I look forward to continuing that conversation with you, and thanks for your continued engagement and support of Jeffco Public Schools.