After a year of financial finagling to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Douglas County School District's budgetary projections for the 2021-22 school year are looking better. According to a draft …
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After a year of financial finagling to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Douglas County School District's budgetary projections for the 2021-22 school year are looking better.
According to a draft 2021-22 budget, DCSD expects its enrollment to increase slightly from the previous year, and also expects state funding to jump substantially. In response, board directors are energized about program investments and educators' compensation.
“We really need to take some bold steps now to really make sure that we're serving the kids coming this fall," said board President David Ray at a May 11 meeting.
Board Director Susan Meek added, “I don't think we should be growing the fund balance (reserves) over the next couple of years because we may have declining enrollment in future years. I feel like we need to be utilizing today's resources to serve today's students and also to fairly compensate our employees."
According to the draft 2021-22 budget, the district expects to receive an additional $32.2 million in general fund revenue, much to the credit of increased state funding. That's because of a decrease in the budget stabilization factor, a calculation the state makes every year to withhold money from school districts to put toward other expenses.
As a result, the state's per-pupil funding for DCSD went up by $500 between 2020-21 and 2021-22. Also, between the two years, DCSD expects to enroll about 1,300 more students.
On the expenditure side, a high priority is educator compensation, an issue the district has short- and long-term goals to tackle. For the 2021-22 school year, the district will set aside a pool of money to adjust every educator's salary to the current cost of living. There has been no cost-of-living adjustment for some positions for six years, despite cost of living increases, district CFO Kate Kotaska explained at the May 11 meeting.
However, the cost-of-living adjustment isn't adding to base salaries, something the district plans to do in subsequent years.
“I think we will have more thoughts about this whole notion of reserves as we look at compensation, because I know we desperately need some work there,” Ray said at the May 11 meeting.
Also, the district will restore $3.5 million in cuts that were made last year at the school-building level in response to COVID-19.
Through second and third waves of federal relief funding, the district has $13.8 million in one-time revenues. The plan is to put those funds toward eLearning, summer programming, unfinished learning (i.e. tutoring and curriculum materials) and other expenses directly related to COVID-19.
Just comparing the 2021-22 and 2020-21 school years, the situation looks good. However, 2021-22 projections don't rival figures for pre-pandemic years. Revenue, expenditures and enrollment for 2021-22 still aren't what they were in 2019-20. Also, the district expects enrollment to decline in future years.
The board will vote to formally adopt the budget at a June 22 meeting.
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