For the first time in four years, the state won’t cut school funding for the 2012-13 academic year.
The news is a relief to Douglas County School District teachers and staff, braced for another round of potentially painful cost-saving measures.
Instead, they’ll likely get a 1 percent raise – the first in four years for teachers, five years for administrators – and a 1 percent retention bonus.
The district’s financial problems are not over, but its 2013 budget now will recommend increasing elementary school funding by $50 a student and leaving middle school funding at its current level. Cuts of $175 per high school student will be covered by shifting schedules and requiring high school instructors to teach additional classes.
Overall, it’s good news, the result of a slowly improving Colorado economy.
“The economists are telling us we shouldn’t necessarily raise the flag and say it’s over,” school district Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen said. “At least for this moment in time, in Douglas County and the state of Colorado, revenues have increased and therefore there are not cuts to K-12 education next year.”
The high school cuts are the fallout from an $18.1 million shortfall the district still faces. Of that $18.1 million, almost $12 million is money borrowed from district savings to balance the 2011-12 budget. The decision to use that money was made in anticipation of an increased mill levy, defeated by voters during the November 2011 election. Another $4 million offset planned furlough days during the current academic year. The remaining deficit is from increased contributions to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association of Colorado (PERA).
High school teachers are picking up some of the slack. Instead of making cuts to salaries or eliminating classes, the district is asking high school teachers to add another class to their load. In the 2012-13 school year, they will teach six classes instead of five, saving the district about $3.6 million.
For instructors, Fagen said, “It’s taking the students they’ve been teaching, adding a few more to that, but spreading it over more sections.”
Another approximately $6 million comes from budgeted line items that Fagen said “were consistently and significantly higher than actuals.”
“In addition, we plan to reduce central administration by another $1 million, reduce central contingency by $1.6 million, and reduce central capital budgets by $3.4 million,” she wrote in an April 10 email to district parents.
The remaining approximately $2 million is among the hoped-for outcomes of negotiations with the teachers’ union. Those meetings, open to the public for the first time, were scheduled to begin April 11 in Castle Rock.
For more information on the budget, visit the district’s Web site at www.dcsdk12.org.