Board of Education allocates $1 million of unrestricted fund balance for one year to slow down staffing reductions that most directly impact schools;
But, $4.2 million in general fund budget cuts must proceed - 17 central office positions cut for next year
The Littleton Public Schools Board of Education continued its conversation regarding substantial cuts to the 2020-2021 budget during the January 16, 2020 Board meeting.
Through responsible spending, LPS was able to stretch 2010 voter-approved mill levy funds for a decade. Through a plan called White Paper 2.0, part of these funds were used to provide 10 temporary positions that were scheduled to last from 2017-2020. This funding source has been reduced as planned. The balance will now be suspended and will no longer be available to fund these positions moving forward. On January 16, the Board discussed possible ways it might use some of its unrestricted fund balance to lessen the impact of the loss of these positions to the system as well as lessen the impact the changes to school staffing driven by projected enrollment will have next year.
Superintendent Brian Ewert presented to the Board several scenarios for the one-time use of unrestricted fund balance that ranged from $571,000 to $1.3 million. Ultimately, the Board voted unanimously to provide $1 million from the district’s unrestricted fund balance to use during the 2020-2021 school year. The Board directed the money be used to slow down the additional staffing cuts that will naturally occur in some schools due to declining enrollment and to provide staffing in the areas of greatest need across the district. Board members noted that all of the positions are important; it is a matter of how to best use the limited one-time money to benefit students and support schools. “One million for one year will make a significant positive impact for kids,” said Ewert.
How will the $1 million be used next year?
About $400,000 will be dedicated to “pool points”, or staffing dollars to help wherever there is the greatest need in schools across the district for one year. The remaining $600,000 will fund secondary instructional coaches and elementary deans, both of which are school-based positions, for one more year.
The Board noted using one-time money to fund staff positions was not an option it would have considered in better financial times. But, the loss of federal grant money three years ago caused a crisis because it happened at the same time the Board made a commitment to infuse substantial, ongoing general fund dollars into safety, security, and mental health. The only way to keep the positions previously funded with federal grant money was to use one-time 2010 mill levy funds, knowing that funding would run out at the end of this school year.
But, there is no slowing down the $4.2 million in general fund budget cuts that have to be made for the 2020-2021 school year:
Reducing central office positions through retirements, the elimination of some positions, and not filling some vacancies at this time;
Reducing staffing allocation to secondary schools by 0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent), and reducing staffing allocation to elementary schools by 0.25 (FTE);
Reducing pay for all administrators and year-round classified staff;
Reducing pay for all certified staff (teachers) through one furlough day (subject to negotiations with the Littleton Education Association);
Reducing the amount of funds used for capital projects and risk management;
Increasing the fees of self-sustaining programs such as School Age Child Care, Driver’s Education, and Nutrition Services pay to the general fund;
Reducing the subsidy the district gives to high school athletic and activity funds, which will result in increased fees;
Increasing fees for preschool;
Eliminating selected software subscriptions.
Approximately two-thirds of the cuts in positions and salary reductions are coming from the central office. Seventeen central office positions are being cut. Those due to retirements include the assistant superintendent of business services/chief financial officer, director of learning services, coordinator of gifted and talented services, special education instructional coach, executive administrative assistant, and coordinator of career and technical education. Additional reductions in central office staffing include chief information officer, tech support specialist, math teacher on special assignment, two administrative assistants, data submission specialist, wellness coordinator, terminal manager, and carpenter. Vacancies that will not be filled include human resources specialist and literacy specialist.
“The people who perform these duties and their scope of work, has been vital to the school district, and the loss of these positions and the work these professionals accomplished on behalf of students, teachers, and families is a blow to the system,” said Ewert. “These are not decisions we would make unless we had to. It was the only way to protect schools from cuts as much as possible. We will be giving careful thought in the coming months to how to reorganize the work and the system. We should have a plan in May.”
The district will adjust to these staffing cuts, and possible solutions for future years will be discussed throughout the spring. There are no easy solutions. The state continues to withhold millions from LPS every year, $9 million for the 2019-2020 school year and nearly $140 million by the end of this school year. LPS sees no solution on the horizon. Meanwhile, the district must absorb rapidly increasing costs in PERA, health care, transportation, and special education. The local $298 million bond generously passed by LPS voters in November 2018 can only be spent on capital expenses, such as facility repairs, upgrades, construction, grounds maintenance, Americans With Disabilities Act modifications, electrical, plumbing, etc.
“Thank you to our administration for bringing this need to the Board when it did,” said Board President Jack Reutzel. “This is a bridge for one more year. I have far more faith in our community to figure this out than I do the Colorado Legislature.”