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School districts working on budgets with unknowns

Posted at 9:30 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 00:17:10-04

COLORADO — State lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) are going to be working some long days in the coming weeks. The state's recent economic forecast shows a $3.3 billion shortfall for the current fiscal year.

Similarly, local school districts are figuring out how to balance their own budgets ahead of the next school year. Without a clearer numbers from the state, district leaders and school boards are looking at multiple scenarios, knowing it's going to require flexibility.

"Best case scenario is a flat budget ," Colorado Springs School District 11 School Board President Shawn Guillixson said, "we're expecting near the worst case scenario which is approximately a 30-40 million dollar cut in district eleven's budget next year."

Typically, the School Finance Act and budget are signed by now. With the legislature taking a couple of months off because of COVID-19, it's slowed down the process.

District 11's school board is meeting later this week to look at the different scenarios. On Wednesday, the JBC will be hearing from an analyst on its staff about the possible financial hit school districts could take. The presentation is something both JBC Chair Rep. Daneya Esgar (Pueblo-D) and district leaders plan to get a better idea of the numbers.

For Esgar, she says there are going to be a lot of tough decisions as they work on both the budget and School Finance Act. With Tuesday's economic forecast, it's an added challenge on lawmakers.

"I'm confident that we're going to figure out a way forward and we're going to figure out a way out of this, but it's going to hurt a little bit," Esgar said.

Lawmakers are also working up against tight deadlines. Esgar says as of now the plan is to get the budget completed by June 1st. The state's fiscal year begins July 1st.

In Academy District 20, the Chief Financial Officer Becky Allan is presenting a budget to the school board next week. The current proposed budget includes 10 percent of cuts which is about 16 million of the district's budget.

"We're at the bottom of the ninth in a baseball game and we still don't have all of the information," Allan said, "the information that we've gotten from the state has really evolved over time."

Many discussions are going to be taking place among school boards and district leaders on where to take cuts with minimal impact to student resources and staff salaries and benefits. Allan adds with limited information coming their way, they may end up crafting the budget and having to reevaluate it mid way through, to get a better picture of the financial situation.

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