Summit School District budget forecast ‘much better’ than expected
District analyzes possible financial impact of 3.5% enrollment decrease
Summit School District Chief Financial Officer Kara Drake is forecasting a “much better” budget situation for local public schools than the district expected months ago.
Drake shared the latest on local and state public school financing at the March 11 Board of Education meeting. Drake said at the meeting that revenue is forecast up $3.7 million for the district in the 2021-22 school year compared to this school year — going from $38.3 million to $42 million. That revenue figure for next school year compares with an expenditure forecast of $41.66 million, leaving a forecast total available balance for the district at $0.34 million.
Drake cautioned that the district can’t assume that $0.34 million can be added to expenditures because the district is operating with a shortfall this school year that forced it to dip into reserve funds.
Drake said Gov. Jared Polis is proposing to restore per-pupil funding to pre-pandemic levels and said it’s yet to be determined how much of Polis’ $1.3 billion stimulus package will go to schools.
“We were thinking about making big changes to the budget,” Drake said. “This is very positive news to know we will have additional resources.”
The additional resources come as the state opted against decreasing its total appropriation for public schools across the state by $121 million, which was considered due to a decrease in enrollment in public schools across the state amid the pandemic. Locally, Summit schools have seen a year-over-year decrease in enrollment of 3.5%. Drake said the state is recommending putting those funds back into the school finance funding formula and added that the state will allocate $41 million to help schools make up for lower local tax revenues.
With the 3.5% dip in enrollment, Summit schools are eligible to be allocated a share of $19 million that the state is giving to districts that saw at least a 2% decrease. Drake said the state is also allocating $25 million in funds to rural districts as a result of the state nicotine tax passed in November. Drake said the funding she detailed does not include the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package passed earlier this month.
Summit School District should receive $1.57 million from the federal stimulus package, according to the office of Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents Summit County.
In order to try to determine how many student will come back next school year, Drake said she used the district’s student data system and surveyed home-school families. Drake said the survey indicated that 52% of students plan to return and 21% are undecided “pending public health restrictions,” leading her to forecast that 80% of home-schooled kids will come back to the district in the fall, influencing the current budget revenue assumptions.
Drake and school board Treasurer Chris Alleman also said the district might refinance its bonds to save $700,000 over several years. That bond recommendation will be brought to the board officially at the March 25 meeting.
Also at the March 25 meeting, survey responses on budget priorities will be shared. Last week, Drake said “budget-guiding principles” will be to “allocate resources to support and maximize instructional time based on scholar achievement and need, to determine staffing based on positions needed, and to achieve a balanced budget.”
“Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your priorities,” Alleman said.
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