Unless You Count $ Twice, There Is No Billion Dollar Budget

We’ve all heard the fictional story about the billion dollar budget for Jeffco and yet again this year, people are posting about it. Despite the fact that financial experts across the country, state, AND in our district keep correcting this, those who hate taxes just keep repeating the mantra and saying the district needs to live within their means.

Maybe they’re unaware of the more than $78 million in cuts that haven’t been restored to our kids in Jeffco. Maybe they don’t realize that in the last five years, JeffCo Public Schools has received 481 million dollars LESS from the state of Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted.

Regardless, let’s end the false billion dollar budget rhetoric. It’s a disservice to our children.

Jeffco’s brilliant financial services team has put together an explanation for us below. We’ve copied the content to make it easy to share and added the graphic as well as a link to print this if you want to share easily on social media:

The key to understanding total appropriations and why schools focus on the General Fund for budgeting begins with understanding the purpose and use of funds.

  • Governmental entities use fund accounting to track revenues and expenditures, mostly due to the fact that some funds have very specific restrictions on how dollars can be spent, e.g. Food Services and Grants.
  • Separate funds are created to track revenue that is received for a specific purpose and to assist with meeting special reporting requirements — similar to separate checking accounts.
  • Having separate funds ensures that dollars are tracked and used for intended purposes and allows for better transparency.
  • Jeffco has fourteen (14) funds, not including the Charter Fund.  The district does not budget for charter schools. Charter schools have sole control of their funds and expenditures and, per state statute, are required to appropriate their own budgets. These funds cannot be used to help with district-managed schools.
  • The General Fund is our main operating fund. It accounts for the majority of district expenditures and offers the best opportunity for impact to student learning.
  • Per Colorado statute the district is required to appropriate a budget for each fund. However, adding appropriations for all of the funds together does not equal the total district expenditures.


Some funds receive transfers from the general fund; thus, adding these funds together would result in double counting because the expenditures occur in both funds. 

And, some funds represent revenue received for a specific purpose (activity/program). Thus, it would be wrong to assume that those dollars could be transferred to the general fund for general operating purposes because suspension of the specific purpose/activity/program would eliminate the revenue.

SJK Note – this represents tshirts that families purchase for field day, fees parents pay, money for yearbooks, field trips, spirit wear, fundraisers, etc. – items we choose to purchase with our own money. NOT tax dollars! The school simply organizes these events and collects the monies for family convenience.

Focusing on the General Fund for budgeting is the most effective way to evaluate the allocation of resources.

  • The total budgeted expenditures (appropriations) for all funds are disclosed in the Adopted Budget and Dollars & Sense publications which are available on the district’s website at www.jeffcopublicschools.org


Understanding Total Appropriations Talking Points_Page_2 (1)


You can print this by clicking here – Understanding Total Appropriations Talking Points

The Colorado School Finance Project has a video series to help educate the people of Colorado about the issues surrounding education funding. The Colorado Did You Know 2017 video is below:

In case you don’t have time for the entire video – the key points in the video have been transcribed for you below:

Colorado adds between 8,000 and 10,000 new students every year.

Colorado is responsible for educating approximately 900,000 students every year in 178 school districts and the Charter School Institute.

Between 30% – 40% of our students require additional services.

Colorado funds our students based on historical funding or what is available.

Funding is not based upon what is needed for all students to reach the graduation goals established by the state.

Colorado funds our students over $2,600 below the national average.

Colorado’s funding for students with special needs is not based on any quantifiable analysis of student need. It is based only on historical funding or what is available.

Funding facts for students requiring additional services:

  • Funding for students in special education covers only about 30% of the costs.
  • Funding for students learning English covers less than 30% of the costs.
  • Funding for Gifted and Talented students provides only enough to cover the costs for GT assessments.

In 2010-2011, the legislature created the “Negative Factor” due to the budget challenges Colorado faced.

  • In 2017-2017, the Negative Factor is projected to be about $828.3M+.
  • The Negative Factor reduces funding to districts and students, forcing cuts and reducing options for students.
  • Currently, the state has no plan to eliminate or pay back the debt owed to its students.

The Negative Factor by school year:

  • 2010/11 – $381M
  • 2011/12 – $774M
  • 2012/13 – $1.001B
  • 2013/14 – $1.004B
  • 2014/15 – $880.1M
  • 2015/16 – $830.7M
  • 2016/17 – $830.7M
  • 2017/18 – $828.3M+ projected

The Negative Factor impacts each district/student differently.

The Negative Factor forces districts to reduce spending to balance budgets.

Over the past 7 years, what have districts cut or eliminated to balance budgets?

  • Increased class sizes.
  • Cut teachers and staff.
  • Eliminated technology updates.
  • 4 day school weeks.
  • Cut building and bus maintenance.
  • Reduced/froze salaries.
  • No updates for out of date learning materials.
  • Spend down reserves (drain savings.)
  • Fewer learning opportunities for students.
  • Closed schools.

As the Negative Factor continues to function as a way to balance Colorado’s budget, what are some options school districts have to continue reducing spending to balance their budgets?

  • Increase class sizes.
  • Cut teachers and staff.
  • Eliminate technology updates.
  • 4 day school weeks.
  • Limit and cut building and bus maintenance.
  • Reduce/freeze salaries.
  • No updates for out of date learning materials.
  • Spend down reserves (drain savings.)
  • Fewer learning opportunities for students.
  • Closed schools.
  • Reduce/cut teacher professional development.
  • Fewer days in school.

To thrive, our children and communities need:

  • Vibrant public schools with qualified, well-prepared, culturally competent teachers for every student.
  • Learning opportunities that meet the needs and curiosity of every child.
  • Individual attention, support & mental health service that ensure no child’s future is defined by depravations, challenges, or trauma.

Looking to Colorado’s future:

  • Enrollment projected to increase by 8,000 to 10,000 students annually.
  • Colorado needs a well-educated citizenry and work force.
  • Our school finance system was designed in 1994. It need updating to reflect the needs of today’s students.

Great Education Colorado has been putting this information out for years – https://www.greateducation.org/statistics-faqs/statistics/


Note: The above stats are based on most current information available. Data are lagging indicators due to auditing.

Only Florida reports a higher proportion of novice teachers in the classroom (Education Week, October 2016).




  • 49% of Colorado districts (88 out of 178 school districts) are on or have some schools on 4-day school weeks.
  • 50% growth in 4-day school weeks since 2005-06.
  • The number of schools on 4-day school weeks has more than doubled since 2000.

Source: The Four-Day School Week Manual, Colorado Department of Education, August 2016





Next time someone says we have a billion dollars for our students, you have the tools to correct them. And just for good measure, here’s an infographic on marijuana funding.

AND, we haven’t even touched on this: