Saturday, February 6, 2010

School District 27J faces school finance challenges

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles that will be provided to update our communities on the state of School District 27J over the next couple of years.

Receiving $1.15 of value out of each $1 spent has been the way of life in School District 27J since Superintendent Dr. Rod Blunck assumed the helm of the district four years ago. Today the goal is to “get $1.15 of value out of 80 cents,” he said.
Here’s why.

“District 27J is facing the same budget impacts as all other districts in the state … proportionally,” Dr. Blunck said.

The State of Colorado has cut billions from its budget so far … and is looking at an anticipated deficit of another $260 million for next year.

Public K-12 education accounts for 43 percent of the state budget. And District 27J accounts for 2 percent of that.

As school districts statewide received notice of their allotments from the state for this school year, each was asked by the legislature to set aside a specific amount until Jan. 29, in case the state needed it back. In 27J, that amount was $1.86 million, which was set aside unencumbered and – as anticipated – was rescinded at the end of January.

Add to that an additional, unexpected $362,000 cut the end of January and 27J is down $2.1 million for the current year’s budget. Based on reports from the state, the cuts will be even greater in the next two years, Dr. Blunck said.

“In 27J, it is exacerbated because we are the fastest growing district and 157th out of 173 districts in funding.” More students. Less funding.

So the conundrum is: Where does the district make cuts for this – and future – years and, equally important, how do the tough decisions get made?

To start, 27J is asking hundreds of people for their input.

An electronic survey has been sent to district leadership, to certified staff and to classified staff … and will be sent soon to 400 community members. Survey recipients have been asked to rate 40 areas that could be cut. The options: strongly consider, consider, try not to consider or don’t consider. Participants also have been asked for any other suggestions.

The results of the feedback will be coming mid-month. Every option is on the table, Dr. Blunck said. Nothing is off the table.

In addition to the survey feedback, Dr. Blunck is waiting for two pertinent reports from the state. A State Office of Planning and Budget report for 2011 will be out Feb. 15 and the Consumer Price Index will be announced Feb. 21.

For the current year, the district is looking to internal organizational efficiencies, day-to-day operations. “The additional funds may have to come out of our organizational savings, or our operations funds,” Dr. Blunck said.

Principals and department heads know that what they save for the rest of this year helps reduce the affects of the cuts next year.

“This is not a one-year issue. We will evaluate every process and every system we have to seek additional efficiencies. We’ll look at what’s an investment (provides results) vs. an expenditure (no results expected),” he said.

“We will examine creative alternatives that are aligned with the mission of 27J. For example, with the support of our Brighton Education Association, we have applied for Race for the Top funds.

“We’ll look at consumables in the classrooms, and possibly restoring fees we had removed. Negotiations are coming up. We are looking for suggestions and feedback … this will affect our entire community.

“We will be accurate before we will be fast,” Dr. Blunck emphasized.
He expects that decisions will be made by the end of the month for the next year’s budget.

In the meantime, “We’ll be reflective and contemplative as to the affects our decisions will have on students, families, staff and the leadership.

“A year from now 27J will continue to make high-quality progress such as the recent graduation rates, it still will be an employer of choice,” he said, “and will still strive to get $1.15 of value out of 80 cents.”

In three years “the district will be producing high-quality graduates, will have harnessed the power of technologies, will have streamlined efficiencies of building-level resources, and will have reinvented itself in the best interest of providing an education for kids,” Dr. Blunck said.

Note: To weigh in with your thoughts on priorities and budget efficiencies, e-mail Teresa Jacobs at

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