Dear Team DPS,
As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has required DPS to make significant changes to how we work and educate our students. We have shared with you the reality of the budget crisis that faces school districts across Colorado and the $64 million shortfall that DPS is faced with. Our team has worked hard over the past few months to create an adjusted budget that recognizes the significance of the COVID crisis for DPS students, minimizes impacts on the classroom and workers at the low end of the wage scale, and prevents layoffs at a time of historically high unemployment. In revisiting the contract negotiations with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) we were also able to reach an agreement that prioritizes our teachers and their critical work. Negotiations are ongoing with Educational Service Providers (ESPs), where we continue to prioritize the principles emphasized by the Budget Advisory Committee.
Last night, the Board of Education approved a 2020-21 budget that was created in collaboration with the Budget Advisory Committee and the DPS Financial team. In approving this budget, the board utilized the guiding principles of their agreed-upon crisis priorities. These priorities center on the overall health and safety of students and employees with an emphasis on supporting our language learners, students with disabilities, students experiencing poverty, and students of color who have historically been marginalized and underserved.
The final budget includes the following. To see more details, you can view the full budget presentation.
· Commitment to educators. Negotiation with bargaining units will ultimately determine the details of compensation agreements. While they are ongoing for the ESP bargaining units, we can say with certainty at this time that:
· Teachers will receive a guaranteed 0.5% cost of living salary increase, with the potential of another 0.5% increase with the successful passing of a mill-levy tax increase.
· Teachers will receive their original, contractual salary increases for years of service (“steps”) and for earning advanced academic degrees (“lanes”).
· Teachers will receive additional compensation for work related to designing and implementing strategies in response to COVID-19.
· Focus on equity. The budget includes a progressive pay adjustment that results in $8.5 million of ongoing savings and protects workers at the lower end of the wage scale. Of note:
· Cost of Living Adjustments for employees earning less than $25 per hour. We will not delay our commitment to moving toward the $15 minimum wage. Specific pay changes will be negotiated with each bargaining unit.
· Pay reductions for any employees at the Executive Director level and above.
· Every effort was made to avoid layoffs in the 2020-21 budget, demonstrating our commitment to DPS employees during a pandemic with over 10% unemployment in Denver.
· Note: In July, PERA will be requiring an increase in employee and employer contribution rates.
· Commitment to schools, including:
· Protection of school budgets to keep impacts away from students to the greatest degree possible.
· Re-purposing the SPF weight from school budgets in 2021-22 to nursing support or other use aligned with crisis priorities.
· Continuing to emphasize equity in school budgets by funding high free-and-reduced-lunch (FRL) schools at per-pupil levels that are 50% higher than low-FRL schools.
· CARES Act funds directed toward crisis priorities through the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment, furniture and school renovations, increased custodial efforts and increased nursing supports.
· Streamlined central supports, including:
· Maximized savings from central supports to keep from directly impacting students, reaching reductions of 20% in central support budgets over the past two years.
· Cuts to non-salary expenditures, including eliminating the RevGen and RELAY contracts, and eliminating vacant positions.
While the budget as approved by the Board of Education represents an equity-focused and financially responsible response to a challenging environment, much work remains to be done. A $30 million to $45 million annual budget gap will still need to be solved in future years, which will require the creativity and hard work and potentially future sacrifices from of all DPS team members. We plan to use between $7 million and $30 million of fund balance this year, which will need to be replenished in the future. While a number of ballot initiatives, including a potential Bond and Mill Levy, could positively impact the budget picture in the future, they are all uncertain and our planning needs to account for a wide range of possible scenarios.
We’re grateful for the many community voices who participated in the budget creation process and who continually stand for the best interests of our DPS students and families. Thank you for your continued support, strength, and dedication.