District boosts funding for curriculum, student achievement

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2014-15 budget benefits from increase in state money

By Daniel Laverty

Thanks to increased state funding, Jeffco Public Schools will spend more on curriculum, student achievement and ever-changing technology trends during the 2014-15 school year.

The school board approved next year’s budget at last month’s final meeting before summer break on a 3-2 vote. The more than $1 billion spending plan is up from last year’s $952 million budget.

The district will see a $29 million increase in funding from the state for the 2014-15 school year. State per-pupil funding will increase to $6,842, compared to $6,482 the previous year. That money will help with various programs:

• $1.8 million for a new math curriculum. 

• $600,000 to development a classroom tool allowing teachers to access student data, known as a "dashboard."

• $600,000 for data security.

• A $900,000 boost in funding in programs for gifted-and-talented students.

• $2 million to increase primary literacy test scores.

• $800,000 for increased transportation options for special-education students.

The 2014-15 budget sets aside more than $58 million in Jeffco’s reserve fund — enough to fund 34 days at full operation. TABOR, the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, requires state governments to keep a reserve balance of 3 percent. On top of that, Jeffco school board policies require an additional 4 percent reserve amount.

The district's building fund will receive nearly $48 million — up from $27.2 million last year — for construction and improvements. The fund is growing thanks to the property-tax increase Jeffco voters approved in 2012, as the revenues from that are are now kicking in.

Although more money is coming from the state, the district is expecting a slight decrease in property-tax revenue compared to 2013-14. The district is expecting just under $298 million, down from $300 million last year.

District officials attribute the loss to stagnant property values.

Along with covering employees' contributions to PERA — the retirement fund for all state employees — the district has set aside $500,000 for expected costs while implementing the Affordable Care Act next year.


The process

The budget process for the 2014-15 spending blueprint started in October 2013. Preliminary numbers were formed based on funding estimates from the state. Numbers continued to be updated until the end of the legislative session in May.

More than 13,000 people responded to a survey in February to give the board direction for next year’s budget.

In March, the Board of Education conducted community meetings to discuss budget priorities with stakeholders. Community members gave board members direction on where district dollars should be spent.

In April, the board started giving direction to district staff as the 2014-15 budget was forming — including adding additional money to equalize funding for charter schools.

After two public hearings on the budget — the second was June 19 — the Board of Education approved the 2014-15 budget on a 3-2 vote.

For more information or to view a copy of the budget, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org.

Jeffco Public Schools is the second largest district in the state. The district serves more than 85,000 students and has more than 14,000 employees. It is the largest employer in Jefferson County.

Capital projects in the budget

• Evergreen High School

Fire alarm upgrade - $349,740

Roof replacement – $910,000 

• Conifer High School

Fire Alarm Upgrade - $562,948

Plumbing upgrades - $14,818