Budget forecast calls for additions, not cuts

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Adams 12 Five Star School District 2013-14 preliminary budget calls for no significant budget cuts, a big change compared to past years. Instead, superintendent Chris Gdowski’s budget plans to invest in additional classroom teachers, counselors, technology and busing.

The preliminary budget plan will invest $6.4 million in programs and services with high priority needs, $4.5 million for ongoing investments and $1.9 million for one-time investments for the 2013-14 school year.

Another surprise to the plan is the proposal of $4.4 million in employee salary increases. Those specific increases will be determined later during negotiations.

“This year we are seeing new revenue from the state. Unlike in the past when we’ve had to make $20 million in cuts,” Gdowski said. “The budget we have developed is based on the governor’s amended budget proposal he submitted to the Legislature based on the December economic forecast. But it’s likely that even more money will be allocated because of the March economic forecast, which was better than in December.”

Last year the district was forced to cut $12 million from the budget and 60 full-time positions were eliminated. Gdowski said he’s hoping with no cuts this year, additional teaching positions and increased compensation, teacher moral in the district will improve.

“I’m very optimistic and hopeful. I’ve heard some feedback from staff after we rolled out the plan and it’s been positive,” he said. “It’s nice to see some things get restored. I’m hopeful at this point that we’ve turned a corner and will see better days ahead with staff in the system.”

Gdowski said the School Finance Act proposes to allocate an additional $30 million in K-12 education as well as additional money for special education. He said if more money ends up being allocated to the district from the state he will have to revise the current plan.

In terms of the high priority needs in the budget plan, Gdowski is proposing an increase in teaching positions in grades K-8, increasing the pool from 16 teachers to 47 new teachers.

He also plans to add a full-time counselor to Legacy, Mountain Range and Horizon high schools. Gdowski said the additions will lessen the work load from 475 to 523 students per counselor to 376 to 435 students per counselor.

The proposed plan also includes technology funding to replace 1,650 computers in the district that are at the end of their useful life as well as an improvement in Internet connectivity to allow for better speed and overall system stability in the district, Gdowski said.

The plan also calls for the restoration of bus routes in the district for middle and high school students who live 1.5 to 2 miles from a school.

“We know from our survey data from our middle school students that after the Jessica Ridgeway abduction and tragedy that our kids said they felt less safe going to school than they have in the past,” Gdowski said. “Providing more transportation for more kids doesn’t take away all of the safety concerns, but there was a lot of interested expressed on the issue. Plus with the bus routes restored, we hope for less traffic congestion around the schools because parents won’t have to be transporting their kids to school by cars.”

In terms of employment compensation increases, Gdowski said the school board has offered to open the negotiations with the District Twelve Educators Association to the public. The beginning of negotiations is scheduled for April 18. In a letter from the school board posted on the Adams 12 website, it states that having open negotiations is in the best interest of the district, DTEA and the Five Star community.

The letter reads, “As you may know, negotiations with DTEA for 2012-2013 went from April 2012 to December 2012. That’s a nine month time span. That is too long for our community not to have information concerning this process — what issues are on the table, where the parties stand on those issues, and what progress is being made. When the process prevents the sharing of accurate information it leads to rumors and misinformation. We are committed to changing that.”

The current agreement between the board and the DTEA requires the negotiations to be closed to the public and as of now, DTEA leadership had indicated negotiations will remain closed. DTEA President Dorian DeLong said he was surprised by the district’s request because open negotiations have never come up before.

“As 2013 bargaining is about to commence, we do not have time to poll our members on open negotiations and seriously consider this request,” he said. “We explained this to the district in writing April 10, saying we are interested in learning more about why the district wants this form of negotiations. We may want to agree to this in the future, but not for this year’s bargaining which begins April 18.”

The Adams 12 school board must approve the budget by the end of June. Until then, community members can voice their opinions and concerns on the budget during the public comment portion of the board’s meetings.

To view the entire 2013-14 budget, visit www.adams12.org.

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