Lawmakers drafted a $30 billion budget, which is close to $3 billion less than last year because of the impacts of COVID-19. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the budget last week, which takes effect July 1, as it dictates state spending through the end of June 2021. That budget deficit has not only impacted business at the state level, but also local school districts.

How will the $3 billion deficit impact Delta County School District? $1.4 million in deficit spending from the district’s fund balance.

DCSD’s 2019-20 general fund budget was $45.46 million, which is $3.7 million more than the total general fund budget for the 2020-21 budget at $41.75 million. Alicia Hancock, director of finance for the district, said that difference “includes a reduction in state funding along with other reduced revenue line items.”

While working to finalize the budget, Hancock said, “Delta County School District will try to do what is best for students and staff as we navigate the requirements for COVID and provide a safe learning environment for our students.”

Hancock added, “The district was able to adopt a budget that did not impact student learning and activities.”

Negative Factor Share

According to the Colorado School Finance Project website, the Budget Stabilization Factor (Negative Factor) is a state budget tool that equally reduces school districts’ funding across the state. The district’s negative factor doubled from FY 2020 to FY 2021 from $3 million to $6.15 million.

“That’s a huge jump in one year,” Hancock said. “So that’s the money that they’re not giving to us, so the state can balance their budget.”

The large increase in the Negative Factor is a result of increased funding allocated to the district due to growth projections about the at-risk population in the district. The state is anticipating the district will go up 300 students in their at-risk population next school year. The district is being more conservative with their numbers, anticipating its at-risk population increasing by 150 students next year. Because of this, Hancock said they plan to withhold spending $200,000 of that money if awarded. The district will not know the true at-risk count or student count until after the Oct. 1 student count, which determines the final per pupil funding.

Overall, the district budgeted for a 5% decrease for per pupil funding.

General Fund

$7.1 million. The general fund proposed budget for the 2020-21 school year has a shortfall of $2,083,011 for the district with total program changes dropping from $39.7 million to $37.6 million. The anticipated general fund balance for the school year has a beginning budgeted fund balance of $7.1 million. That figure is an estimate the district anticipates at this point Hancock said.

With a $1.8 million shortfall in state funding and adjustments for an at-risk population change, the current year’s shortfall totals $1.1 million.

The 2020-21 budget saw changes in the revenue, expenditure, transfer and existing budget as the districts made cuts to save money. The total revenue changes decreased by $790,000. Expenditures saw a savings by $818,000 transfer changes savings were $875,000 and net changes to the existing budget savings of $900,000.

“When we started that process, we were under the influence of having to cut 10 to 20%,” Caryn Gibson, DCSD superintendent, said. “We really went through visiting with all of the departments and asked for a 1 to 5% reduction in our departments and everyone working together sharpened some pencils and that’s where we are.”

Supporting staff for efforts. The district asked the board to approve one line item, a 1.25% increase in staff salaries, totaling $330,000. Although the district asked the board to increase the budgeted shortfall, the district will use fund balance to make up the shortfall. Hancock said the district recently learned that the COVID-19 Relief Fund can only be used for COVID-19 expenditures.

“By doing this, they do not see a decrease in take home pay, which our staff has been amazing through this COVID time and even before that,” Gibson said.

Gibson shared how the district built up its fund balance for a rainy day and wanted to make sure the board was OK with that spending.

Board secretary Linda Ewing supported the salary increase.

“I really want to be able to give a step, if we can do that,” Ewing said. “I know we don’t want to spend too quickly and I agree with that… but our teachers just stepped up and did what they had to do because that’s who they are. I feel like we need to acknowledge that more than saying, ‘You guys did a good job.’”

Funding used to alleviate district costs

Cares Act. DCSD received $788,000 in CARES Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. These funds will be used to enhance the district’s safety measures, prepare schools for COVID-19 requirements and potential future school and/or community outbreaks and a portion will be used to pay for additional instructional hours.

The district also received $2.8 million in CARES Act coronavirus relief funds.

Technical College of the Rockies

$968,138. TCR saw a 58% decrease in state funding for the FY 2020-21, dropping $968,138. For 2020, the college received $1.66 million in state funding, which dropped to $701,065 in 2021. It remains unclear how much of a state funding reduction the college will see in the coming years. TCR’s FY 2020-21 budget saw a negative net change of $548,000. A 1.25% salary increase for TCR staff was also budgeted and proposed to the board.

Cares Act. TCR received $754,000 in CARES Act funding, which positively impacted the ending fund balance projections for the year at $1.5 million. Without CARES Act funding, the fund balance would have been $770,000. The district is still working with the state to determine how the CARES Act funds can be used, with the hope those funds can alleviate the current shortfall.

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