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2013-14 budget restores days, dollars to Jeffco schools

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By Daniel Laverty

The Jeffco school board approved a 2013-14 budget totaling $952 million at its meeting May 30, a spending plan that adds $22 million to current-year expenditures.

The increase comes thanks to a boost in funding from the state and to the tax hike approved by voters last November. The budget still is $45 million less than the 2009-10 spending plan.

The district avoided $45 million in cuts this year when Jeffco voters approved 3A and 3B on last November’s ballot. The district’s mill-levy rate is 48.721, or $388 annually for a $100,000 home.

District employees will see a 3 percent raise to restore pay cuts made in 2010. The budget also eliminates two furlough days, resulting in two more days of school for students.

With employee salaries increased, four working days are being added for all district employees next year.

The district will also see a rise in per-pupil funding — $6,348 per-student, up from $6,061 last year.

Jeffco again must increase its employer contribution to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association by 0.9 percent next year. The state-mandated increase costs the district approximately $5 million.

The largest portion of the budget, the general fund, is more than $630 million. The general fund is used for the district’s day-to-day operational costs — materials, supplies, maintenance and employee compensation. The district pays more than $505 million (80 percent of the general fund) to its employees.

The majority of the general fund is paid by county property tax ($300 million) and the state ($305 million).

The Jeffco district is the largest in the state and the 36th largest in the nation. The district serves roughly 86,000 students and employs more than 14,000 full- and part-time employees.

A delayed vote

The 4-1 vote to approve the budget was delayed when board members Laura Boggs and Paula Noonan proposed several unsuccessful amendments.

“I wanted the board to show the community our ‘thank you’ for passing 3A and 3B last year,” Noonan said after the meeting. “I’ve been saying this for some time now. It would’ve been nice to return a little bit of the money to the voters.”

Boggs proposed that $400,000 not go into reserves and instead go to teacher-librarians. After that motion was denied, Boggs then proposed eliminating bus fees by putting less money into reserves.

Noonan then made a motion to lower Outdoor Lab fees for Jeffco students. Noonan again said she wanted the board to extend a gesture to voters, thanking them for the increased funds.

“In the ideal world, (the board) would be able to make everything you’re (both) suggesting happen,” said board member Robin Johnson. “This is not the ideal world right now. We have a room full of experts here who have done their due diligence in presenting us with what I think is a very wonderful budget with what we have to work with.

“I don’t think that a lot of these things are feasible. I’d love to not charge kids to ride the bus, but unfortunately these are the times we live in, and we have to be realistic,” Johnson said.

“There are tons of things we’d like to do,” Boggs said. “One of our jobs as community representatives is help set those priorities. I agree with Ms. Noonan about bringing some restoration to our parents and taxpayers (for approving 3A and 3B).”

Board President Lesley Dahlkemper and board member Jill Fellman were visibly frustrated during the conversation, and both mentioned that the budget had been discussed multiple times at previous board meetings. Johnson agreed.

Dahlkemper thanked chief financial officer Lorie Gillis and budget director Lorri Dugan for their work.

“It communicates so clearly, and it’s simple and easy to understand,” Dahlkemper said of the spending plan. “That’s no small feat when you’re talking about a budget that’s nearly $1 billion.”

The budget was approved 4-1, with Boggs casting the only dissenting vote.

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.