The Douglas County School District was able to fold additional dollars into the 2021-22 final budget from the proposed budget that district staff presented in May. The district's board unanimously …
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The Douglas County School District was able to fold additional dollars into the 2021-22 final budget from the proposed budget that district staff presented in May.
The district's board unanimously approved the budget for the upcoming school year at a June 22 meeting. Board directors had nothing but praise to offer district finance staff, who were drafting the budget for four months and working to accommodate the many requests from board directors and community members about next year's financial priorities.
“This work is the clearest I have ever been able to understand the school district budget,” said Board Director Christina Ciancio-Schor at the June 22 meeting.
The budget-drafting process for the 2021-22 school year dealt with several unprecedented factors, such as restoring budget cuts made in response to COVID-19 and distributing federal relief money. Also, the district started a multi-year process to increase employees' salaries.
“While the order of magnitude of the swing of revenues is just about equal to what we were facing last year, we are in a vastly different position of talking about reinvestment and restoration,” said Chief Financial Officer Kate Kotaska at the June 22 meeting.
To address the compensation question, the district set aside a pool of funding to increase employees' pay to meet a new base salary. If an employee's salary isn't at the new minimum, they now are, Kotaska said. If an employee is already within range of the base, their salaries increase by 4%. If an employee is above the maximum, they receive a one-time payment that's 4% of their total salary.
The new, minimum base salary for general employees is $43,600 and the maximum is $91,000. For “hard to hire” employees, the range is between $48,100 and $96,300. In the proposed 2021-22 budget that staff presented to the board May 11, the compensation pool was $7.2 million. However, that increased to $15.7 million in the adopted budget.
Ciancio-Schor commended district staff for their specific work around compensation. “I just want to thank you so much for paying attention to the compensation for teachers and staff and looking at how that's going to continue to build,” she said.
The adopted budget had other additions from the proposed budget. The district will restore a ninth behavior specialist position eliminated with the COVID-19 budget cuts, add two autism coaches, and set aside a $2 million reserve for special education programming.
The adopted budget had more spending than the proposed budget because of unanticipated state funding the district learned it would receive after the Colorado Legislature passed the School Finance Act. State per-pupil funding for DSCD will be $8,607, totaling a $47.4 million increase in state funding from last year.
Another difference between the proposed and adopted budgets is that the district had a more detailed sense of how to spend certain dollars. Back in May, the district knew it would restore $3.5 million worth of COVID-19 budget cuts made to school-building level spending. By June 22, school principals outlined to the district that they intend to spend that money on substitutes, increasing specials teacher hours and classified staff hours, and instructional technology.
There were many layers to the 2021-22 budget, but it ultimately came together, said Board President David Ray. He said, “Thank goodness we started this discussion back in March because when you present the whole picture, it is exhausting to say the least with all the complexities.”
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