Much of what is included in the two documents makes it look like Jason Glass and the District staff really haven’t thought through what is going to happen to the District financially or how to make the necessary budget reductions.
To start, Federal money, both direct from Washington and allocated by Gov. Polis, appear to being used as compensation for a large budget shortfall in state funding. However, it is my understanding that the Federal money comes with some strings attached – primarily that it be used for explicit COVID-19 related expenditures, not merely as a backfill for items already budgeted or budget shortfalls. No where in the District staff discussion does it talk about these restrictions or how they will affect the use of the money. It merely appears that Jeffco is using the money as backfill. In addition, there is no discussion of ANY additional costs related to COVID, which the Federal money could be used for. Isn’t the District going to have fairly substantial COVID related costs? Why aren’t they reflected in the budget as increased expenditures?
The second major issue I have with the District’s budget discussion is that it is centered on next year. The state budget shortfall will last at least through the following year, probably longer, and the local property tax shortfall will begin next year as well. In this respect, CFO Askelson fails miserably in her job to present the Board with a complete financial picture. How can the Board decide how much to take from reserves this year if they have ZERO information on how bad the budgetary picture could look in the next few years? They can’t! In my mind, that is a demonstration of the total incompetence on the part of Glass and the CFO to not present that information.
Next, I find some of the District recommended cuts to be extremely questionable.
- There are only 2 proposed cuts listed as ‘Damaging’. One of those is the District’s paid lobbyist. Damaging? To whom? I have a hard time even remotely thinking of that cut as Damaging. Listing it this way clearly explains everything that is wrong with Jason Glass and Jeffco schools. Glass likes to say: “keep the main thing the main thing’. I hardly think a paid lobbyist is the main thing.
- The listing of the ‘Damaging’ lobbyist cut goes hand-in-hand with the ‘Recommended’ cut of 2 Literacy Interventionists. That’s doesn’t seem to be a great idea in a District where over 50% of kids don’t meet state reading expectations. Why not reduce the number of Community Superintendents by 2 for a $326k+ savings instead and even hire an additional Literacy Interventionist?
- And, what about a cut of $2.2M in School Improvement Funds, money that principally goes to Title I schools? In the interest of equity, couldn’t Glass find something else to cut – like $4.2M in 1:1 device purchases that have not been proven to improve academic growth or achievement?
Where would I cut? You can see that in a letter I wrote to the Board here, but below are some suggestions of where the District can and should look to make cuts.
I don’t envy the Board in having to make the cuts. I particularly don’t envy the Board because Glass and District staff have done such a horrendous job in deriving a list of potential cuts. However, there seems to be a tremendous amount of bloat in Jeffco’s $1.2B budget that is not focused on improving education that can easily be cut without affecting education or kids.