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The Douglas County School District Board of Education voted 4-2 on June 20 to approve a $578 million budget for the 2017-18 school year.
Board members David Ray and Anne-Marie Lemieux voted against approving the budget because they said they needed more information and a more detailed report outlining central administration spending.
Board member James Geddes left the meeting before the vote, but said he fully supported the budget and encouraged the rest of the board to vote to approve it. Geddes did not offer his reason for leaving.
1. Salary increase for employees
The board approved a 2 percent salary increase for all employees, which is projected to cost $6.5 million.
The board had previously discussed looking for ways to give teachers an additional 1 percent raise.
District staff presented three options: the elimination of a $3 million device refresh from the technology budget; eliminating a $3 million student enrollment contingency that guards against lower-than-projected funding due to drops in enrollment; and waiting to see if additional property tax money may be available later in the year.
None of these were acted on during the meeting, but could be implemented by the board in the future.
"It could be an abundance of caution," interim Superintendent Erin Kane said. "I completely acknowledge that. However, this budget has generally been our tightest ever so there isn't a lot of room for error."
2. Reorganization and savings
District officials found ways to save about $21 million compared to the previous year, thanks to a central administration reorganization that saved $14 million in 2016-17 and will shave off $7 million in 2017-18. Those included eliminating the positions of the chief growth and development officer, chief academic officer, chief operating officer and chief community relations officer positions. The savings also includes unspent department carryover and money saved from the reorganization of the professional development and the World Class Education departments.
3. More detail sought on administration spending
"What's really difficult for me is when we are shifting money around to different departments and different categories, its really hard for us to have oversight, which is the role I think we're supposed to play," Ray said. "The reason why this is such a hot issue for us is because of a lack of trust. There just has been a lack of trust over the last eight years about how we spend money."
Lemieux agreed, saying she needed more information to be able to vote on the budget and that she wanted to hear more detail about the district's capital needs from the Long Range Planning Committee.
Kane said if a budget were not passed by June 30, the state would automatically allocate the district 90 percent of what it received the previous year. This would have resulted in a $73 million loss to the district.
4. Per-pupil funding up
The district, the third largest in Colorado, will receive $7,389 per pupil from the state - $244 more per student than last school year. The increase is projected to generate $11.5 million, but will be offset by a projected decrease of $4 million caused by declining enrollment at some district schools, mainly at the elementary level.
For 2016-17, DCSD's enrollment was 67,470, up from 66,896 in 2015-16, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
5. No money for capital needs
There wasn't enough money to address capital projects outside of maintaining the current infrastructure, according to district officials.
The district does have emergency contingency funds in place to address unforeseen capital projects - such as damage to buildings or utilities - that would affect student learning or safety.
The Long Range Planning Committee - a group of community members and parents charged by the district with studying its capital needs - put the price tag at $275.1 million for needed current and future projects over five years. The committee is scheduled to give an updated report at the August school board meeting.
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