Since the coronavirus outbreak began, school district officials have been prepared to make some reductions to the budget for 2020-2021. But an April 21 letter to the community from Superintendent …
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Since the coronavirus outbreak began, school district officials have been prepared to make some reductions to the budget for 2020-2021. But an April 21 letter to the community from Superintendent Jason Glass stated that cuts may be even greater than the district originally thought.
Just weeks earlier, at the April 2 Board of Education meeting, the district financial team was projecting just over $2 million in cuts based on predictions that state funding would not increase this year. But by mid-April, the news had changed: Not only will Colorado districts not receive new funding, they are now being “told to expect reductions between 1 to 10% below current funding levels,” Glass said in his letter.
The letter to the community came just days after Glass broke the same news to staff members, hoping to prepare them for what's ahead. Jeffco could be looking at a range of $7 to $70 million in cuts, though the district is planning to model a reduction around 5% in cuts, or $34 million, as it builds its upcoming budget, Glass said.
“Charter schools would also receive a proportionate reduction out of this amount,” and any federal aid would be shared with charters, he said.
Glass added that the virus will not only impact funds this year but for several years down the line because of the declining economy and its impact on tax collections.
Looking ahead, he outlined a few next steps related to the budgeting process.
This year, the 2019-2020 school year, the district aims to finish the year with a balanced budget and continue to compensate employees without cutting pay, he said.
For 2020-2021, “we will likely have to look at making some difficult choices in order to bring our expenditures in line with a new and lower revenue reality,” Glass said.
While as superintendent, Glass does not vote on the budget, he listed the likely options for reductions in order of how disruptive he believes those cuts would be. Least disruptive would be pulling from the district reserves, he said, followed by district level cuts and reductions; salary freezes; furlough days; salary reductions; school closures and consolidations; and staff layoffs.
In an April 23 Facebook Live video on the Jeffco Public Schools Facebook page, Glass further detailed what those cuts might look like. After about $3.4 million in cuts is absorbed by charter schools, the remainder of the district will need to make about $30 million in cuts, he said.
One possibility would be to use $15 million from district reserves; cut $7 million by implementing two furlough days for staff; cut $6 million by instituting a 1% pay cut for all employees; and cut $2 million from district departments and programming, he said. Other options are also possible and will be based on the board's decision and community input.
Depending on how much the district receives in federal aid, it may be able to use $20 million from its reserves, reducing the amount of cuts needed in other categories.
In the live video, Glass also emphasized that while the district is currently mdoeling a budget with $34 million in cuts, "we have even started to hear of higher number cuts over 10%" as a possibility. In the case of a 10%, or roughly $70 million reduction, additional furlough days, layoffs and school closures could potentially come into play, he said.
If reductions exceed 15%, "we're going to have to think of some structural changes," such as a shift to a four-day work week, Glass said.
So far, no district budget reduction decisions have been finalized. Jeffco will know the exact amount of the budget reduction when the state makes final education funding decisions at the end of May. The Board of Education must approve its budget by June 30.
Glass encouraged community members to keep an eye out for upcoming opportunities to weigh in on potential reductions. Community members can also email Covid19jps@jeffco.k12.co.us to say what they would like to see prioritized in the budget.
“We will be sending out multiple opportunities for you to share your values and to have your perspective included as we navigate this budget,” Glass said in his letter. “If we are able to come together on our values, there is a path where we can weather this storm and continue to serve our students and community while also taking care of people.”
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