Here is a summary from the DCSD Work Session on Apr 5, 2016:
– All Board members present at opening with the exception of Dir. Geddes
FOC/BOE joint investigation for sourcing funds for capital improvements (presented by Justin Carter)
This is to address the need for capital to make building repairs and improvements. They will offer insight and recommendations to the board for the use of capital improvement funds. The highest priority for improvements is building repairs (roof repairs, etc.). In summation, the FOC reviewed multiple sources and strategies for funding. These were presented to the board for consideration. Pros and cons were presented in terms of tax load and long term impact.
Questions from the board followed:
• Dir. Lemieux had a question regarding the amounts discussed. She wondered if amounts could be altered. She followed up with why the amounts chosen were so.
Answer: The amounts were related to needed construction and repair needs.
• Dir. Lemieux asked if the bond wording can be altered at a later date to clearly communicate issues to voters.
Budget outlook and recommendations:
Presenter: Bonnie Betz, DCSD CFO
Betz brought up school budgets, offering a review of comparative data to justify budget decisions for the next year and recommendations for allocations of the budget.
Some general notes:
• We are up to pre-recession levels in dollar amounts per student. We are up year-over-year in funding. However, that funding level has not kept up with inflation.
• Over the last 25 years, when comparing the level of local-sourced funding vs state general fund, local has dropped from 53% of carriage, to 34%. 66% of our funding comes from state funds.
• $5M in dept. carryover monies. $11M in school carryover.
• Many budget options were presented. including changes to health plans. Lowering the threshold for a school to get an assistant principal, and the priorities of pay increases.
• Options can be reviewed.on this slide.
* Dir. Geddes appeared at some point during this presentation
• Dir. Ray asks what portion of the FOC recommended funds would go into the yearly budget.
• Dir. Lemieux asks what the total Per Pupil funding is.
Answer: 7,050 dollars.
• She followed by asking what the site based budget per education level is.
Answer: Multiple levels – normally between 5500 to 6500 dollars for sites. This data is on the website in the budget book.
Dir. Lemieux asked for clarification re: slide 15 and the declaration that 61% of the budget is spent on education.
Answer: Clarification is given in that the 61% is broken out among all student occupied activities (e.g classroom, outdoor, etc.)
• Dir Vogel asked for a breakdown of how salary increases are broken out.
Answer: It is based on the amount of students in the school.
• A followup was asked regarding the update to technology items in the budget.
Answer: The impact of technology updates is minimal. Carryover drops to the bottom line to help keep that constant.
• Dir Geddes took time to compliment the ‘efficiency’ of the administration budgeting. He had no questions.
• Dir Benevento asked how the school finance act impacted the district.
Answer: We benefited marginally more than other districts because of the finance act formula.
• A followup was asked about diverting funds to anything other than the negative factor.
Answer was circuitous and regarded the allocations for disadvantaged kids (this was a confusing line of questioning)
• Various followups were asked about minor budget items and funding levels for budget allocations based on student levels.
• Betz gave suggestions for wording of ballot issues to ask for more tax money.
Discussions to follow: Dir Reynolds lays out rules for the conduction of discussion, asking for moderation from SME’s in attendance .
(Moderated working session begins after a 15 minute break)
• Dir Lemieux asked what level of community outreach has been done regarding the proposal of a mill levy tax.
• A followup was asked regarding what WILL be done.
Answer: They were unprepared to address that at this time. Dr. Fagen interjected that if the board decides to pursue this Mill Levy, a poll will be done to assess the viability.
A followup question was asked about our credit rating if we didn’t pass a bond.
Answer: “Probably nothing.” If we DID pass it, that might affect our credit rating, but overall it is not clear. Most likely not worse off.
Dir. Reynolds addressed the discussions of what is viable/not viable as far as fund sources.
Dir. Geddes mentions that he will produce a resolution to remove the lack of obligation of developers to build out infrastructure including the schools.
Dir. Benevento gives a long dialogue about how he is concerned about how tax increases are viewed by the public. Tax dollars have had a hard time reaching the classroom, so how are we to ask for more dollars? This is after qualifying his position as having voted yes for earlier tax increases.
A lot of discussion followed regarding how dollar amounts were reached for the requests.
Dir. Benevento raised the question of a dedicated maintenance fund. The answer is that no, one odes not exist, but repairs are prioritized from the capital fund according to need.
Dir. Ray asks Dir. Benevento what he would need to hear to be totally comfortable putting an additional mill levy tax on the next ballot. Dir. Benevento says he thinks that the public will just not support it. He says he is personally for a tax increase, but doesn’t think this will pass. Dir. Silverthorn says she does not believe that the show of support at workshops is not representative of the public voter base. Dir. Ray says we should take advantage of recent support and interest in the district. Dir Dir. Benevento said they had a lot of support in 2011 and the initiative still failed. Dir. Lemieux noted that the 2011 initiative was also tied to the pay for performance system, and that is what failed. She displayed her sons dilapidated textbook to illustrate the richest district in the state not allocating funds to basic classroom supplies.Her point is to communicate to the public that the need for quality schools and supplies directly ties into the quality of the community at large now and in the future. She also noted that her sons schools need a $17M dollar roof to be safe and not ‘fall in on his head”
Dir. Silverthorn interjected and asked for a clarification that buildings are not deemed unsafe for children to be in. District admin stated that no unsafe condition exists, but that the schools are nearing the end of their useful initial lives. She also clarified that calling us the wealthiest district is a misnomer, as our average income is high, but the district itself is not as wealthy as the county residents itself. This argument was somewhat contentious as Dir. Lemieux was cut off multiple times. Dir. Silverthorn took ample time and it was not an equal time discussion. Her general argument is that the state is not allocating the funds that they should to us.
Dir. Benevento is saying that pay for performance is popular and that this argument was driving him to a ‘no’ vote on a ballot initiative. he says that the district has been treated unfairly by the state level and that school financing should be discussed in total, not just in terms of asking for more money from taxpayers. he alleges that we must focus on telling the public that they are actually getting a raw deal from the district.
Dir. Silverthorn appealed to the board to look forward for new goals rather than what happened in the past (referencing past initiatives and how they failed).
Dir. Lemieux agreed with Dir. Silverthorn on this point.
*Dir. Geddes is not present. this is at time-stamp 2:40.
Dir. Vogel voiced her agreement with the need for public education of the need for money for maintenance, but that we will of course perform needed safety updates.
Dir. Benevento noted that Silverthorn was the largest vote getter ever. This seemed immaterial to the discussion and actually caught Dir. Silverthorn offguard.
FOC moderator noted that his moderation was not asked for during the discussion, but that he would like to adjourn this discussion for now.
Dir. Ray followed up that the fact is that some of our buildings re in bad shape and that must be addressed.
Thomas Tsai pressed the issue further that his children are in the Highlands Ranch HS feeder system so school building safety is personally important to him, therefore, our schools are safe as a result and always will be based on tier one repairs (related to safety) will be done. We have 7 mm in tier one repairs needed.
A clarification was offered that essential repairs are actually at 38 million, for all three levels of tier one repairs.
Dir. Vogel asked for a motion to press staff to explore the middle level of the FOC recommendations as we are running out of time for the execution of these plans.
Bonnie Betz suggested a poll to ask voters if they would be willing to fund different levels of FOC recommendations. Benevento asked who would fund that poll. Fagen gave some explanation of how that would work.
Dir. Lemieux volunteered to facilitate a meeting with the finance bank to poll voters.
Dir. Silverthorn said that the meeting will be made known and questions from board members can be submitted for review beforehand.
Some discussion among the board was had regarding strategy of when to put a tax increase on the ballot.
Friendly direction to staff was put forward to collect more information from the public regarding the viability of a ballot initiative. Fagen agreed that would be no problem.
Dir. Geddes did not return and was not present for over half the discussion portion of this work session.
Dir. Silverthorn thanked the attendees for their work and the meeting was adjourned.