Planning Forward – Budget
Catastrophic cuts in state education funding due to coronavirus are threatening the Cherry Creek School District’s ability to deliver on our promise of excellence for every child.
The pandemic has challenged us in ways we had not previously imagined. A superintendent-appointed task force is designing a back-to-school plan that addresses multiple educational scenarios based on the potential impact of COVID-19. We must find a way to do all of this while also addressing a cut of $25 million from the State this year with an even greater cut in state funding the following year.
This webpage is intended to provide critical information about the district’s current budget situation, potential impact on schools, and steps the district is taking to address the growing fiscal crisis.
On July 20, the Board of Education received the Superintendent’s recommendation to call for a bond and budget election. Specifically, the recommendation is for a budget election to raise $35 million for operational expenses to stave off some of the worst impacts of the budget deficit, and a $150 million bond election for costs including deferred maintenance, security upgrades, innovation-focused renovations at the high schools, a mental health treatment facility, and the potential of a new school in the eastern part of the district to alleviate overcrowding.
The recommendation ultimately came from the Budget Task Force and Council of Chairs, two volunteer committees made up of parents, teachers, administrators, district staff, students and community members that have spent months meeting and discussing potential cuts and new sources of revenue. The combined impact of the recommendations to homeowners totals $1.65 per month for every $100,000 of home value. The Board will vote at its Aug. 3 meeting whether to call for the election.
Over the past year, the district has engaged in conversations with parent-based community working groups to help guide the district into the future. The following task force working groups were created in alignment with the districts Future Forward Strategic Plan:
- Budget Task Force
- Safety and Security Task Force
- Innovation 2.0 Task Force
- Marketing Task Force
- Long Range Facility Planning Committee
- Council of Chairs
The work of these groups was planned to support the Budget Task Force and the Council of Chairs focus on how accelerate excellence for our 55,000 students as we face mounting budget challenges due to inadequate funding from the state, as well as rising costs and the likelihood of declining enrollment in the near future. The Budget Task Force made the following recommendations (pre-COVID-19):
- Operate with a stabilized budget moving forward.
- Limit compensation increases for all employees to a maximum of $9 million.
- Implement a centralizing hiring freeze effective Jan. 1, 2020.
- Hold an election in November 2020 for operating and capital needs.
Current State of Finances with COVID-19 Crisis
The state of Colorado is looking to cut $3.2 billion from its budget. That will result in unprecedented catastrophic cuts to K-12 education. The Cherry Creek School District is facing a $60 million budget million budget deficit, largely due to cuts in state funding. This loss of revenue will be even greater than cuts the district saw during the Great Recession.
Current Facts Regarding Funding and the Cherry Creek School District
- For the 2020-2021 school year, the district was cut by $25 million (5.5% of our budget)
- The State anticipates and is planning for a more significant cut in 2021-2022 (greater than 7%, an additional cut of approximately $35 million in Cherry Creek)
- Given the combined impact of the decreased funding, to balance our budget the district must make reductions in excess of $60 million.
- The district received a one-time influx of $28 million in emergency relief funds from the CARES Act. The Federal Government placed extreme restrictions on this money, and it must be spent prior to the end of December 2020. Subsequently, we are not able to use it to offset cuts from the State (e.g. we cannot use the funds to support anything that was in the district before March 20th of this year, including any personnel, their salary or programs)
Overview of Budget Cuts Already Identified
- Reduction in Central Office support personnel and administrators = $10,000,000
- Reduction in front office staff supports centrally and in schools = $1,600,000
- Elimination of in-person professional development and all staff travel = $2,200,000
- Implementation of strict energy saving guidelines at all buildings = $500,000
- Ongoing savings already identified – TOTAL = $14,300,000
One of the first steps we have taken as a district is to negotiate six (6) furlough days for teachers, administrators, nurses, mental health and other staff for a savings of $12 million. This one-time savings will not offset the $60 million deficit, but it allows us to avoid immediate layoffs. The Board of Education approved these furlough days at Monday evening’s meeting.
A furlough day is a day when employees will not work and will not get paid. Only three (3) of the furlough days will impact student contact days, resulting in three additional days off for students.
The following days will now be days off for students, with no classes and no day care:
- Monday, November 23 (Thanksgiving week)
- Tuesday, November 24 (Thanksgiving week)
- Tuesday, January 5 (Last day of winter break)
With the addition of furlough days in November, there will be no school the entire Thanksgiving week for the 2020-2021 school year. The district will still meet instructional minutes required by the Colorado Department of Education.
For more information about budget reduction efforts currently under way, view this document.
Through the month of July, the parent and community based Budget Task Force and Council of Chairs will convene to provide feedback and guidance to the district regarding additional cuts and discuss the prospect of recommending the Board of Education call an election to raise additional funds to offset the required reductions. Part of this process will include a survey to the community to help provide feedback as to the impact of potential cuts and the value of various programs.
Items that will be considered
In addition to salary freezes/reductions for all employees over the next three years, six (6)furlough days starting this August, and reduced staffing in all employee groups across the organization, we will look for guidance on some of the following items (not a complete list).
- Increase Fees – Transportation, Athletics, Elective Classes, Technology
- Extend Transportation Boundaries / Increase Walking Distance
- Eliminate Middle School Athletics
- Reduce High School Athletic / Activity Opportunities (e.g. Sports and/or levels)
- Reduce the Number of Teachers / Increase Class Size
- Reduce School Security
- Reduce Mental Health Staffing
- Reduce Nurse Staffing
- Reduce Elective Offerings, Other Programs
- Consolidate Schools
Check back to this page for updates on the budget and resources as we work to maintain our commitment to transparency around district finances.
The full presentation by Chief Financial Officer Scott Smith to the Board of Education on June 12 can be viewed here.
A letter from Superintendent Siegried can be read here.