Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adams 14 Community Budget Survey

In 2010-11 there will be drastic reductions to public school funding in Colorado. The news from the State Capitol is disturbing; and as we consider the outlook for coming budget years, the reports keep getting worse.

In Adams 14, we are anticipating revenue reductions for 2010-11 as high as $3.5 million. This projected revenue decrease could go up or down depending on the actions of the legislature this session. Adams 14 is weighing its options to create a balanced budget for next year. We must also consider how to best meet the needs of students within our financial means. It is unlikely that school funding will turn around for several years, so we need to implement long term solutions this year to help with budgeting for future years.

Given previous cuts and the size of this upcoming cut, it is clear all parts of the District will be touched. As a result, the District developed an online survey to gather community input on budget priorities. The survey was public, available in both English and Spanish, and included respondents from various groups: staff, students, parents and other community members.

Participants completed the survey February 19 through February 26, 2010. The District received more than 700 responses to the survey. Teachers and staff members constitute the largest group of respondents, followed by parents.

The District has taken the input from the online survey into consideration in developing its budget reduction plan. The Board of Education has studied preliminary recommendations for budget reductions that align to the survey results. The Board has scheduled two public hearings on the budget, the first on March 23 and the second on April 27. The Board will vote to adopt the budget for 2010-11 on June 22.

Survey Results
Respondents were clear about their support of the quality educational programs that Adams 14 offers. Respondents expressed difficulty in prioritizing options to help balance the budget. Respondents’ priorities for each of the five categories covered by the survey, as well as themes from open-end free responses, are outlined below.

Elements of a Quality Education
Overall respondents said great teachers were their top priority in providing students a quality education. This was closely followed by class size, safety, and teacher training. Finally, respondents prioritized the arts and competitive athletics as important elements of a quality education.

Personnel Costs
Education relies on people - teachers, principals and support staff. Approximately 85% of the Adams 14 budget goes to people (for salaries and benefits). As a result, cutting the budget in Adams 14 will require including reductions to staffing costs. Respondents were given several options regarding personnel costs to prioritize to save money. The preference was to have staff take furlough days when students don’t normally have school. The next choice was to have staff take furlough days when students do normally have school. Salary reductions of 1% and 3% followed in that order. Finally, the least preferred option was for the District to cut jobs.

Support from Central Office
Adams 14 Educational Support Services and other offices provide a variety of services to schools to support the education of children. Respondents said the most important services from the central office were to support classroom instruction. The first priority was to recruit high quality staff. The second and third priority tied. Those priorities were supporting curriculum, instruction and testing, and supporting classroom technology. Delivery of supplies to schools, maintaining and cleaning schools, and upkeep of fields, playgrounds and parking lots were prioritized least.

Athletics and Activities
Adams 14 currently pays for students to participate in athletics and activities beyond the school day. The District also pays the cost for students to take high cost classes. Respondents recognized the value of athletics and high cost classes; however, they prioritized cuts and fees for such offerings. To offset costs, respondents preferred charging fees for sports and activities. The second and third priority options ranked very close and those were eliminating high school sports with low participation and charging fees for high cost classes like music and CTE. Lowest on the priority list was to eliminate middle school sports.

Although not required by state law, Adams 14 provides transportation to students living outside of an established walking distance to their school or to students who must cross hazards to get to school. The walking distances vary by school level with elementary school children walking the shortest distance to school and high school students walking the greatest distance. To offset costs, survey respondents preferred increasing the walking distance for high schoolers. Second priority was increasing the walking distance for middle school students, followed by the option to increase walking distance for elementary school children. The least favored option was eliminating bus transportation for high school students.

Respondent Comment Themes
Respondents were provided the opportunity to write comments about their responses on the survey. Clearly, the Adams 14 community is passionate about education; and, therefore, respondents expressed frustration with the need for budget reductions. It is evident that respondents struggled to prioritize items that they consider essential services for students. Many respondents commented that the state should increase the funding for public education.

Comments about reducing personnel costs vary from reductions made in central office support to reductions for school maintenance and upkeep. Overall, respondents favor reductions in programs and salaries over complete elimination of services. The community also expressed their support for finding efficiencies, yet they wish to protect class size, core academics and music and the arts.

Respondents perceived that certain groups of employees might be protected from job cuts or salary reductions. There was a strong theme that cuts should be across the board, impacting all employee groups.

Download the narrative report CLICK HERE
Download the detailed budget survey results CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment