Budget Decisions Ahead

The Jeffco School Board will have some very tough decisions to make for the upcoming 2017/18 budget process. It will be a challenge to communicate the enormity of the impact these decisions will have on our students, staff, schools, and community and what few options are actually available to the board. Not passing the bond (3B) in November will force the district (and board) to consider some severe facilities decisions.

You cannot over estimate the value of thoughtful well prepared presentations, knowledgeable staff available to respond to questions, and an open dialogue between members of the community, staff and board members.

At this point in time, however, there is no plan for any public forum where board members and staff will meet in person with community members about these very important decisions facing our students, schools, staff, and community.

 

Beginning January 21 (and closing on February 10), Jeffco Public Schools will open an “on-line budget tool”. We urge all Jeffco parents, staff and community members to participate.  

Based on the district’s website (2017/18 Budget Timeline) http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/media/news.php?id=4103850645463905259&rel=home, public engagement on the budget and budget process will be limited to using this tool and public hearing on the budget April 20th. Telephone town halls have been discussed at the board table, but nothing is officially listed on the district website. As is noted on the district’s website, this “is the tentative budget timeline”.

Why should you be concerned?

As we pointed out in our article of December 27, 2016, http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/retaining-and-attracting-staff/, staff informed the board during the December 15 Study/Dialogue Session:

“As Jeffco Schools begin this next Budgeting season, one of the great challenges that lie ahead of both district leadership and the board is how to find the dollars to keep and attract those experienced teachers in the 5-9 year range.”

Without the “… $12.6 million that would have come from 3A, Jeffco needs to find $12-15M (in ongoing dollars) in advance of this staffing season…”

Unfortunately, actual budget recommendations or proposed considerations have not yet been made or shared with community (and quite possibly not with the board either – this is a point that is unclear).

The most current budget information we have available is from the November 17, 2016 staff presentation – http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AFCS2L703C33.

The board is scheduled to hear staff recommendations on Budget Overview with Cabinet reallocation recommendations, and Facilities Master Plan update including boundaries, 6th grade moves, and possible school closures in their Study Session scheduled for January 26th.

The key factor missing from the district’s Budget Timeline is community’s ability to meet face to face with board members in a forum setting. The Process (as per the district website) includes:

1) A board meeting on January 12th (where the board was presented by staff with a Student Based Budget update; and

2) A board meeting January 26th where the board will hear staff recommendations on Budget Overview with Cabinet reallocation recommendations, and Facilities Master Plan update including boundaries, 6th grade moves, and possible school closures.

While the January 12th meeting was open to public comment, the Student Based Budget Update took place during the Study Session, which began at 5 pm. (Of course, considering there is limited information on the district website for the 2017/18 budget, it would have been difficult for anyone to intelligently comment about the budget or the process.)

The board meeting scheduled for January 26th is a Study/Special Session and there will be no public comment.

The district website also notes:

“Of course, public comment is always welcome at regular BOE meetings, however if comment item is not on the meeting agenda the comment period is at the end of the meeting.”

February 9th will be the next opportunity for public comment and, as the district states, if the budget or a budget item is not included on that meeting’s agenda, those wishing to address the board will need to wait for the 2nd public comment at the end of the meeting.

We would like to thank board member Amanda Stevens who urged her fellow board members and district staff to consider public forums to allow community members an opportunity to hear first hand what options are on the table, and share their priorities. Unfortunately, she was alone on that point. Other board members and some staff opposed the idea because Budget Forums last Spring were poorly attended by community and parents.

 

We believe strongly in the power of community engagement and the respectful exchange of ideas and opinions, and hope community members seize every opportunity to let the board and district know their priorities as the budget process moves forward.

If you have comments concerning the budget or the budget process, or the facilities issues, you can email the Jeffco school board members directly: http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/board/members.html