Budget is the No. 1 word I hear lately, and with good reason. We are at the height of budget season, and in the economic climate, lots of questions and concerns about cuts have been raised.
Although many details remain unknown as we are waiting for the latest revenue forecasts and a final vote by the state Legislature on K-12 funding for the upcoming year, a few things are certain. We are absolutely committed to putting our students first and doing everything we can to minimize any impact on the classroom. Our goal is to bring the SBB (student based budget) reductions required for a balanced budget as low as possible so as to avoid any impact on our students.
The following are questions and answers to the questions I hear most often.
Q. When will the school budget be final?
We hope to have more answers by April. Based on revenue forecasts in December, Gov. John Hickenlooper amended his proposed budget and has recommended an expected $89 million cut be taken off the table. This is great news. However, many variables still remain including March revenue forecasts, the question of funding student growth, and final decisions on the state budget by the state Legislature. While we are optimistic, we are preparing for multiple scenarios.
Q. What are the cuts?
We have been preparing for what we believe is the worst case scenario, and from there, discussing what we will do in the event of a smaller reduction. Our goal is to bring the SBB reductions required for a balanced budget as low as possible so as to avoid any impact on our students.
We are involved in ongoing contract negotiations with the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and cannot discuss details of those meetings. However, we believe there is a pathway that gets us to zero furlough days for our teachers and staff.
We are hopeful that we can present a final budget that includes:
We believe we can achieve these goals by realizing efficiencies in our cost-of-doing business line items -- such as utilities -- and making additional cuts to central administration.
Q. There seems to be different interpretations of how much money is in the fund balance. Please address the fund balance and how those dollars are used.
Recently, there has been a great deal of misinformation about the DCSD fund balance. The facts are as follows:
Maintaining a reasonable and healthy fund balance is critically important to the financial stability of the district. Just like all of us try to maintain a savings account in our family budgets, the district must keep dollars available for emergency use. For instance, if a boiler breaks in one of our schools, we need funds available to replace it.
It is important to note that the 2011 budget was developed in the spring of 2010, prior to the hiring of superintendent Fagen, the chief financial officer, and the majority of the current administration. The prior administration increased some line items, including utilities, substitute, and medical fund, during FY 2009 and FY 2010. Those increases were not necessary, and this resulted in fund balance increases.
Superintendent Fagen and her team are dedicated to budgeting more closely to actual needs, as proven by the allocation $11 million of the fund balance to offset the cuts in the current year.
For more information, please refer to the chief financial officer's report from Jan. 17 or visit the "Budget Facts" page at www.dcsdk12.org.