Dear Team DPS,
I wanted to thank you for your dedicated work during this challenging time. As the largest school district in Colorado serving an incredibly diverse student population, we know how critical it is that we maintain our focus on the high-quality instruction and support that we provide our students, many of whom rely on us for access and opportunity. As a result of COVID-19, we have had to make major changes to how we work and educate our students. We also have seen the negative impact of COVID-19 on our financial picture. As was shared last week, the state had to reduce $3.3 billion from its budget, which is roughly 25%, and subsequently had to cut school funding. As a result, we now face a nearly $65 million budget shortfall.
To take on that challenge, we convened a Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) made up of board members, parents, students, teachers and staff. The BAC met in May and June to evaluate budget options. Later today, the BAC will present its proposal to the Board of Education at their retreat. Following that proposal, the DPS Finance Office will present staff budget recommendations that are in strong alignment with the BAC recommendations.
These staff budget recommendations will aim to reflect the principles and values that we heard during the budget development process and from our Board of Education. These include:
- Keep equity at the forefront by minimizing impacts on the classroom and workers at the low end of the wage scale.
- Recognize the significant impacts on DPS students of the COVID crisis and do everything possible to shelter them from budget cuts.
- Prevent layoffs at a time of historically high unemployment, recognizing DPS’ responsibility to its employees.
- Implement a plan that prioritizes ongoing solutions to lay a foundation of responsible fiscal stewardship in the long term.
I know at a time like this there is so much uncertainty about the future. What will school look like next year? What will work look like? We are all living with uncertainties, but I want to share how we have approached the work on the budget. As stated above, we have worked hard in this budget proposal to reduce funds without reducing staff. We are looking at efficiencies and vacancies as ways to reduce costs. The Board of Education and I, along with the Budget Advisory Committee and the senior team, have been clear that we need all hands on deck to support the work to open for 2020-21. And during a time of over 10% unemployment and a global pandemic, we want to provide strong service to our community and avoid having to lay off people, causing loss of income and health coverage.
The proposed budget that will be presented today aims to accomplish three objectives:
- Streamline central supports. Maximize savings from central supports to keep impacts from directly impacting students.
- Focus on equity. In all compensation options, protect workers at the low end of the wage scale.
- Minimize layoffs at a time of critical community need and very high levels of unemployment.
- Protect school budgets to keep impacts away from students to the greatest degree possible.
- Build a long-term solution. To the greatest extent possible, use options that provide ongoing savings.
The following is a high level summary of the budget proposal. To see more details, you can visit BoardDocs to review the budget presentation, which will be posted shortly for the June 15 board retreat.
- Streamline central supports
- Last week, we shared our savings of roughly $16 million ($8 million in ongoing savings and $8 million in one-time reductions). This includes things like adjustment to bell times, ending contracts with RevGen and RELAY, and switching to Google from Microsoft Office.
- Since last week, we have continued to look for savings. We have identified over $1.8 million in on-going savings through not filling roughly 18 vacant staff positions at the central office.
- Over the past two years, we have cut more than $28 million from ongoing central supports. Nearly all of this reduction ($24.4 million) is from School Supports and Headquarters, representing a decrease of nearly 20%.
- Focus on equity
- The BAC in its work looked at many different compensation proposals; our budget recommendation reflects the ideals of the committee to diffuse the impact across groups.
- This proposal is one of shared commitment to support individuals at the lower end of the wage scale, and has those at the higher end taking more of the burden.
- We are proposing a progressive pay adjustment that results in $11.5 million of ongoing savings.
- Anyone whose hourly rate is below $25 will see an increase of 0.5% to 1.9%.
- Those making more than $25 an hour but under $100,000 in annual pay, or those at school sites over $100,000, will see no decrease in pay.
- Anyone whose annual pay is more than $100,000 and whose job is not school-based will see reductions through a combination of base-pay cuts and furlough days, ranging from 0.75% to 5%. As your superintendent, I have taken a voluntary 10% pay cut.
- Specific pay changes will need to be negotiated with each bargaining unit.
- Note: In July, PERA will be requiring an increase in employee and employer contribution rates.
- Minimize layoffs - This proposal has no layoffs of any currently staffed positions. We will also need to look at adding overtime and potentially additional staff, including part-time custodians or other school-support positions, in order to handle additional work related to COVID-19.
- Protect school budgets - None of these recommendations will negatively impact school budgets’ purchasing power.
- Build a long-term solution - Over the next few weeks, the board and staff will work to finalize the last remaining budget decisions. As we do this, we will work to balance one-time savings versus ongoing savings in order to ensure that we don’t have significant funding issues in the future.
As you can see from this budget proposal, we have worked hard to reduce our costs in a way that is aligned with our principles and values. Over the next two weeks, we will have several town hall meetings to gather feedback and the board will hold a public comment meeting on June 25. Please reach out to us or attend one of these meetings to ensure your voice is heard. The final vote on the budget is expected on June 29.
Thank you for all you are doing and continue to do for our community. I know that, together, we will be able to move past this pandemic in a way that makes us stronger and ensures our students thrive.