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Jeffco schools’ proposal of budget cuts rises to $40 million

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Jefferson County Public Schools has proposed nearly $40 million in budget cuts for 2011-12 that would ax jobs, trim workers’ pay, close two elementary schools and suspend outdoor education for sixth-graders.

The proposed package — which the school board will vote on in May or June — also would impose transportation fees and and increase athletics fees.

The district originally thought the budget needed a $26 million trim for 2011-12. The new budget comes in at $627 million, so an additional $14 million trim was necessary. Employees will shoulder about $16 million of the $40 million in proposed cuts.

“We went to the $40 million target because as you look over the next few years, it doesn’t appear to get better,” said Jeffco Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. “So we’re trying to be strategic and take the long view.”

The district’s cuts — triggered by the announcement last month of $332 million in state funding cuts — emerged from a “summit” last weekend that included representatives from the school board and employees associations. It is believed to be the first such budget collaboration in the state.

The state budget still isn’t finalized, and that could affect the final Jeffco budget, but the arrangement of cuts announced Friday would not be subject to tweaking.

“What’s in this proposal is a package deal,” school district spokeswoman Melissa Reeves said. “There isn’t any shifting of money. It goes through the way it is, or it doesn’t.”

Under the plan, the district would cut 212 jobs — teachers, administrators and support staff — but most would be temporary teachers who were on a one-year contract.

“A lot of them were expecting this news,” Reeves said. “We’re hoping some retirement will pad that as well.”

The cuts will impact class sizes in varying degrees. Stevenson said that over the past three years, average classroom sizes of 20 have risen — and the money-trimming could increase numbers to as high as 27.

Employees would take a 3 percent pay cut and lose six workdays, two of them “student contact” days.

“This is absolutely the best that could have been done under the circumstances,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Jeffco teachers union. “This is really important that we were able to come together and come up with these cuts. None of us like them. But we’re a team in Jeffco.”

The package includes an annual transportation fee of $150 for bus riders, with a $175 fee for students who attend option schools, including Warren Tech and D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High.

Athletic fees, now $125 annually, would increase by an amount not yet determined.

Also, the district would close Martensen and Zerger elementary schools in Arvada to save about $300,000 per school per year. Both have been on a proposed list of possible closures.

Ending an annual week-long outdoor lab at district facilities at Mount Evans and Windy Peak would save about $900,000 per year. That cut proved painful, Stevenson said, because nearly every Jeffco sixth-grader has participated since 1962.

She said that if the community organized to find private funding for the program, “we’d be more than willing to work with them.”

The summit process that produced the proposal grew out of a national conference on labor- management collaboration held in Denver last month.

Jeffco’s representatives included Stevenson, Dallman of the teachers union and board president Dave Thomas. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s plan to slash $332 million from the K-12 budget was announced on the first day of the conference.

“We looked at each other and said that the way we’ve done negotiations is not going to work with this crisis facing us,” Dallman recalled. “We needed to do something different.”

They learned at the gathering that a district in Montgomery County, Md., had hashed out a budget by bringing employee groups together, and they decided to try a similar strategy in Colorado.

Last weekend, the school board, teachers union, the Colorado Classified School Employees Association and the Jefferson County Administrators Association met with a federal mediator for 17 hours of negotiation.

“It certainly was a gratifying experience to be on the same team,” Stevenson said. “As we looked at what was good for schools, the district, the community, kids and employees, it wasn’t each union defending and protecting their own membership. It was, ‘How do we make our schools run?’ ”

-Kevin Simpson. Photo: Critical Thinking

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  • comment avatar Tom Wambolt March 12, 2011

    How much money is being diverted from the schools budgets by urban renewal districts in Jefferson County? Isn’t it about time that we start demanding that cities start limiting how much money is diverted away from the school districts and sending it to the schools where it belongs and not to the developers?

  • comment avatar Kris R March 12, 2011

    Kids are going to be deprived of the educational skills they will need in the future and all you can think of is to ride your hobby horse one more time?

    That’s OK, though, we can always continue to import our educated people, although given what is happening to the schools, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to come here any longer.

  • comment avatar Still Undecided March 12, 2011

    he story states that $16M will be saved by the employees taking a 3% pay cut. Yes, they will receive less money but they also get six additional days off during they year so they won’t be compensated any less. More interesting is when you use the numbers they provide to see how that $627M budget is spent. These are all round numbers, but it seems that 85% of the budget goes to salaries. That chunk of the budget is only absorbing 40% of the cuts. Most of the cuts are coming from the kids and the parents.

    Following the story yesterday, teachers were writing in asking why “everyone hated them so much.” I turn this around back to them and ask, “Why aren’t you willing to take your fair share of the cuts?”

  • comment avatar Mary B March 12, 2011

    Get rid of the Illegals, free breakfasts,lunches and ESL programs!

  • comment avatar Anne S March 12, 2011

    I am saddened to see Outdoor Lab on the list. Although I’m surprised it has survived this long. I went to Outdoor lab as a 6th grader and back as a high school helper. I know for a fact I majored in Biology and later became a teacher because of these one week experiences. Our property taxes are absurdly low and all I hear is whining. We have become a nation of selfish and fearful citizens. What a sad, sad day.

  • comment avatar Cush March 12, 2011

    “colomtn wrote:Our property taxes are absurdly low and all I hear is whining. We have become a nation of selfish and fearful citizens.”

    Well put. The anti-tax fervor in this nation has reached an absurd level.

  • comment avatar Allen E March 12, 2011

    I believe the governor should appoint a blue ribbon commission immediately to investigate the issues that many of the school districts are facing in terms of revenue shortages.

    School districts were having serious problems even when the economy was good.

  • comment avatar Ratna March 12, 2011

    Very sad!! My kids are about to start school. Maybe we need to move to Boulder Cty but no one or entity is immune from a bad economy I guess ugh.

  • comment avatar Tiffany B March 12, 2011

    I LOVED Outdoor Lab so very much! I think it’s very sad, but throughout my K-12 education in Jeffco schools and now as an adult voter in Jeffco, I think I’ve rarely ever seen any of the school tax increases pass. Voters, in my opinion, need to remember the importance of public education even when they don’t have children of their own utilizing the system.

  • comment avatar Joy O March 12, 2011

    So now I am wondering if private school isn’t such a bad choice since clearly my tax dollars aren’t doing the trick… hmmm… thinking about it.

  • comment avatar Andrew H March 12, 2011

    Sadly I blame the voters for this as they turned down the proposal to increase taxes so things like this wouldn’t happen. Our kids now have to lose out.

  • comment avatar Ratna March 12, 2011

    I agree. Older voters or those who go private schools vote vs taxes. Education suffers in this country and thus we will again fall behind developing countries who seem to pass us in education. Sucks. I’d be happy to pay a reasonable yearly fee for my kids or taxes to get a great public education but I know some cannot pay. Its time for parents pony up.

  • comment avatar Melissa T March 12, 2011

    I think that if schools would manage their money better and get rid of the top weight – kids wouldn’t suffer so much with cuts. Why can’t schools learn from businesses who make cuts that don’t affect customers?

  • comment avatar Diane B March 12, 2011

    Very sad. I haven’t heard what the budget outcome will be in the Cherry Creek District where I live. Unfortunately, when your dealing the loss of so much money, every cut has a big impact. This will be felt all around the country as it seems every district is dealing with similar circumstances.

  • comment avatar Samantha Jill March 12, 2011

    there is only so much money to go around? we spend more on criminals than on our students? should we protest-parents and students? if we feel the cuts will this give government a reason to just want more? and at what point is too much?
    charg…e for bus riding? csap every other year? just throwing out things here…is there an answer? sad face

  • comment avatar Kaylene March 12, 2011

    Teacher’s Unions are notorious for cutting funding for programs and building maintenance so they can keep their benefits and get their pay raises. Then when they run out of money for programs and maintenance they cry to the public for more …money. Then the voters get ridiculed if the money isn’t approved. Wisconsin is a perfect example of a Union tapped out and angry. Voters shouldn’t take the heat. Put the heat on the Unions to manage your tax dollars better. The money is there, they are just choosing to cut programs instead of other budget items. It’s called emotional baiting.

  • comment avatar Liz March 17, 2011

    Homeschool……… you can educate your children better anyway. You won’t be pressured to teach to an invalid national test, you can instill your values into your own children, and if your worried about socialization join a sports coop or art coop and have your kids go. At least then you can actually know who your kids are hanging around with and help guide the influences in their life.

    I mean do we honestly think that our kids get much education sitting in a room full of 30 plus kids half who constantly prose behavior problems is education?

    It is not up to the government to take care of us.. we all know it will collapse at the rate it is going. We as individuals need to learn how to educate our children intellectually, emotionally, and socially.

  • comment avatar Sabrina March 17, 2011

    Two thoughts as far as budget cuts go:

    If the administration is making more than $80K a year…they had better be taking a pay cut before the teachers do. Sure, they put in long hours, but it isn’t nearly as draining as what the teachers do each and every day. They simply should not be getting paid more than our teachers, period.

    I have to respectfully disagree with anyone who complains about teachers salaries. They don’t get paid enough as it is for what they do. I understand that they are going to have to take a pay cut, because there aren’t a lot of options left…but it breaks my heart.

    How much of our tax money is being spent educating non-tax paying illegal immigrants? I would really be curious to know. Because it seems that, as harsh as it may sound, we need to be taking care of our own before trying to educate others that aren’t even paying into the system. Just a thought.

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