11.17.2016: So what’s next?

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The election is over. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, now we have to start thinking about how to move forward without bond funds to pay for facility upgrades and without additional mill levy funds that would have helped our schools and provided backfill money in case of state cuts.

We strongly encourage you to attend or stream tonight’s Jeffco School Board meeting because your input will be more important than ever in the coming months. The meeting starts at 5 pm in the Education Building, located at 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO. The board room is in the fifth floor.

If you can’t attend, you can stream the meeting from this link:

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Or you can watch it or any of the previous board meetings later at your convenience.

The first agenda item is about boundary changes for the 2017-18 school year in the Ralston Valley articulation area. Candelas K-8 will finished and ready for students, so the district needs to redraw the boundaries accordingly.

Also note: Candelas K-8 is now officially Three Creeks K-8. That name was approved at the Nov. 3 school board meeting.

District staff met with members in those communities and used their input to decide on the final boundaries. You can also sign up for public comment if you’d like to talk to the board about the boundary change. Remember to sign up by 3:30 pm and to read the other guidelines about public comment, including the three-minute time limit for individuals. Groups of four or more speakers–who have signed up as a group in advance–have 10 minutes.

Also on Thursday’s agenda:

We’d like to highlight slide 14 from the budget process presentation. Specifically, it notes:

  • If the state funded schools according to all of the rules in the School Finance Act and Amendment 23, Jeffco Schools per-pupil funding would be $8,399.
  • The governor’s 2017-18 proposal increases the negative factor, which means less money for our kids.
  • The current proposal would set per-pupil funding at $7,416, which is considerably less than the $8,399 students would have without the negative factor.
  • Inflation is projected to be 2.7 percent.
  • The last time the state increased the negative factor was 2012-13.
  • How much money has Jeffco lost since the legislature hadn’t invented the negative factor in 2010?  $567 million.

The board will go into more depth about the current projections and what that means for the 2017-18 Jeffco Schools budget. Board members will also discuss ways to gather input from the community in the coming months.

Last but not least, the board will discuss next steps for the district in light of the failure of 3A and 3B.

The budget conversation isn’t likely to start before 8 pm. If time is at a premium for your family (and whose isn’t these days?), we’d suggest tuning in around 8 via the live stream.

JCSBW will keep you updated on the board news as we go forward, but we can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to stay involved with this process.

And last, thank you to everyone who volunteered for the 3A and 3B campaign and to all of you out there who voted for it. It certainly wasn’t the outcome we hoped we’d see, but nevertheless, we remain committed to working to find solutions for all of our students.

Some of you may be wondering why 3A and 3B didn’t pass this time. We have lots of thoughts about that but will save them for a different post. The most pressing issue this week is to move forward to look for new solutions. And with that, we remain

Jeffco Proud!

 

 

 

Have you voted Yes on 3A and 3B yet? Do it today!

Chances are good that if you still have a ballot in hand, someone has contacted you and reminded you to get that ballot in by Nov. 8. Even my weather app is asking if I know where my polling place is. (Answer: yes, but I already voted.)

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Nevertheless, let’s say it again: We need everyone who supports public education to vote Yes on 3A and 3B, the Jeffco Schools mill and bond. We can’t risk another 2013, where very important issues — in that case, the composition of the majority of our school board — was decided by a very small group of the population. The issue that year was not that the majority of Jeffco supported WNW, but that the majority of Jeffco voters did not vote. Don’t let that happen again.

We need you to vote today or Tuesday. It’s too late to mail your ballot, but you can drop it off at a 24-hour ballot box, or at a voter service and polling center. You can also vote in person at the polling centers.

Even better: if you look at the list of polling centers, you can also check estimated wait times at those locations. The polls close at 7 pm on Tuesday night, and we need your yes vote on 3A & 3B.

We’ve given you the basics, explained the 3A mill and 3B bond in greater detail, explained what’s at stake, myth-busted much of the nonsense we’re hearing around both ballot issues, explained the state funding mess, pointed out that the Koch Brothers are back, and pointed out the cost of doing nothing. But if you need one more reason to vote yes, the Jeffco Schools Capital Asset Advisory Committee has it:

“We track how construction costs have gone up since that $99 million bond was put forward, and I think it’s an incredible story that we need to tell. That in an environment where costs were rising 5 to 7 percent per annum — that would be more than 21 percent over the course of these projects — this staff was able to deliver every single project that it promised to the public in Jefferson County and did it in a timely basis. To do it on budget in this environment really means they did it 20 percent under budget.

“We asking for funds to allow us to grow this district in an appropriate manner with the stewardship of those funds that has been demonstrated since the 2004 bond to be unparalleled.

Phillip Infelise, chief collaborator, P-Cubed Partners, LLC and member of Jeffco Schools Capital Asset Advisory Committee, April 21, 2016 meeting with the Jeffco BOE

We think that speaks for itself. Please get out and vote, and remember to go all the way to the bottom of the ballot to vote yes on 3A and 3B.

Jeffco Proud!

The Cost of Doing Nothing

What if we don’t do anything? That is a cost. There is a cost to doing nothing that every person in this county needs to consider.

– Dawn Williams, Jeffco Schools Capital Asset Advisory Committee  (CAAC), at their meeting with the BOE, 4/21/2016

For some, voting on the Jeffco Schools mill and bond, 3A and 3B, seems to be merely a question of whether they think the cost is worth it. What they may be missing is that there’s a cost either way.

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In our last post, we noted that state funding for Jeffco students hasn’t kept up with inflation between 2009 and now. On Tuesday, the state released its first budget forecast and they’re predicting funding cuts for schools.

Under the proposal, the negative factor would increase by $45 million (which, like any good double negative means that funding to schools will decrease). The best-case scenario is that schools will see slight funding increases, but those won’t keep pace with inflation or student population growth.

So what does that mean for Jeffco students?

For starters, it means Jeffco has less resources to support students in the classroom, and is less able to attract and retain great teachers. When pay doesn’t keep pace with inflation, people find jobs that pay better. Our teachers can easily head to Boulder, Denver, or Cherry Creek and gain a significant pay raise by doing so. That’s a significant cost to Jeffco students.

Being unable to have funding to support the purchase of additional learning resources, additional learning specialists to support struggling students, or to be able to expand learning opportunities to include more project-based work, STEM, art, music, and physical education is also a cost. Those are opportunities that Jeffco students don’t have as budgets are chipped away by inflation costs and state mandates.

Worst case scenario? More budget cuts. We haven’t recovered fully from the ones we experienced in past years, but we’ll be faced with more hard choices. The first priority for 3A money is to backfill cuts in state funding. Without it, our students pay the cost.

Another major cost is that Jeffco falls further behind when it comes to maintaining our school facilities. We know how that played out after the 2008 mill and bond failed:

The combination of needing to maintain our older schools, needing to build or renovate schools, and to bring all of our schools up to an appropriate facilities condition index would have been about a $250 million deficit. Over the years that issue has grown to a point where, when we sit as a committee and combine all the economic challenges that face the facilities group in 2016, we’re clearly looking at a number that exceeds $500 million.

– Phillip Infelise, CAAC, 4/21/2016

Steve Bell, Jeffco’s Chief Operations Officer has repeatedly told the board that the cost to adequately maintain Jeffco’s buildings is $65 to $75 million per year according to industry standards. Jeffco only has $18 million in the budget each year.

That’s also a cost. It’s led to more than $500 million in needed maintenance and new construction. Roofs and HVAC systems don’t fix themselves, so the costs continue to add up. For a quick glimpse of what that looks like, watch this video. The 2012 bond addressed the most pressing maintenance needs at the time, but it’s four years later. 3B money will address the current backlog of deferred maintenance.

Jeffco’s Capital Asset Advisory Committee members talked about the costs of deferred maintenance at great length with the Jeffco School Board members at their April 21 meeting. Those costs not only include the accumulated costs of deferred maintenance, but also school choice and learning:

If we allow our structures to become old looking and tired, we’re going to begin to lose…. People are going to find places where they can get a beautiful school and that beautiful school will encourage education.” “When a parent walks into a school and it feels good, looks good, they’re going to say “This is what I want my children to be educated in.”

The teachers and the students are going to feel much better if a school is well lit, the carpet is not worn out, the kitchens are producing the products that we need.”

– Gordon Callahan, CAAC, 4/21/2016

Still feeling skeptical? The facilities costs for doing nothing is much more than worn-out facilities. For example, 10 temporary classrooms were added to West Woods and Meicklejohn elementary schools this year, at a cost of $750,000 for a three-year commitment. That’s a pretty expensive “nothing.”

Another cost is the lost instruction time incurred every time a student housed in a dry temp has to put on a coat and buddy with a partner to leave that classroom and enter the regular school building to use a restroom.

There’s more:

In addition to new construction, other options can include busing, new boundaries, reconfiguration of grades and flex school years – all of which have costs to the families and the district’s budget and staff.

CAAC letter to the Jeffco School Board, 12/17/2015

What are those costs?

Let’s look at busing first. Some have suggested that reopening the currently closed Zerger Elementary would solve all problems. But the numbers suggest otherwise:

  • Zerger Elementary’s capacity: 480 students
  • Estimate of number of additional Jeffco students north of I-70: as many as 6,800 students
  • Cost to run the 6-8 bus routes that Jeffco estimates they would need to bus NW corridor students to Zerger: $47,000/route for a total of $280,000 to $375,000 annually.
  • Cost to recommission the building: $150,000
  • Cost of needed capital investments: $575,000
  • Total cost: $1,005,000.00

That’s a lot of cost for a building that will only accommodate a small fraction of the new seats needed in the area. Bond money would likely be needed in order to get the school up and running and address the maintenance issues to keep it warm, safe, and dry.

It also doesn’t get at the more thorny questions, including how many seats would actually be available to the students in new developments. Zerger’s attendance before it closed was around 290 according to facility reports. Reopening the school might only net 200 extra seats, if that, plus handfuls of empty seats from the two schools that absorbed the Zerger students. We happen to think that creates more problems than it solve, with a million-dollar price tag no less.

Others have asked about the former Sobesky building. Let’s look at those numbers:

  • Year built: 1947
  • Size: approximately 30,000 square feet
  • Capacity: 193 students

One of the reasons the district wanted to move Sobesky to a new location was that the building was not up to code and as a result, younger students could not attend.

The district may be able to sell it, but we’re doubtful that it would fetch enough of an asking price to make a dent in the $535 million in facilities needs.

Why not sell Zerger instead? They have been trying since the school was closed in 2011 and the school board voted to, but with no luck so far. Zerger’s location is a challenge. It was built as a neighborhood school and with the expectation that students would walk or bike. Parking is at a premium. A charter school might be interested, but there are already three charter schools located within a couple of miles of Zerger, including one located in the same neighborhood.

There is a cost to doing nothing, and it’s not cheap. We think it’s more fiscally prudent to be proactive and address these educational and facilities needs with targeted funding to enhance learning, expand facilities, and addresse deferred maintenance in ways that will net cost savings that can be directed back into the classroom in the long run. With interest rates at historic lows, the 3B bond makes good sense.

We encourage you to vote Yes on 3A and 3B, spread the word, and make sure ballots are turned in by Nov. 8.

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Jeffco Proud!

 

State Funding vs. Property Taxes: Why We Need 3A and 3B

Have you found yourself thinking about how your property taxes were higher this year and wondering why school districts across Colorado, including Jeffco Schools, are asking for more money in mill and bond requests like 3A and 3B?

We have answers. Read on!

Believe it or not, both of these things are true:

  1. Property taxes in Jeffco increased due to increased home values in the area.
  2. State school funding remained largely flat.

In Jeffco, state funding for the 2016-17 year increased 1.2 percent over 2015-16 funding, as reported in Jeffco’s 2016-17 Dollars and Sense brochure. Inflation, however, has been measured at 2.8 percent on the Front Range and is predicted to be at 2.6 percent this year.

When we say state funding has remained “largely flat” what we mean is that sometimes — such as this year–it isn’t even keeping up with inflation, which means less money for classrooms, for maintaining facilities, and for keeping pay competitive.

What’s worse is that even though the housing market is booming and taxes are up, the Denver Post reported last month that 2017-18 budget cuts may be on the way:

Colorado’s state budget faces a potential deficit this fiscal year, economic forecasters told state lawmakers Tuesday, as tax revenues continue to fall short of previous expectations.

If true, that would mean cuts to K-12 funding for 2017-18, and potentially mid-year cuts this year.

Let’s repeat that: despite a booming economy and increased property taxes, Jeffco Schools could see mid-year budget cuts this year.

That was the news a week ago. A few days ago Chalkbeat report Nic Garcia tweeted that the state budget chief now thinks that won’t happen. However, we won’t know more until the budget forecast is released at the beginning of November.

Here’s how school funding can remain flat even though your taxes increased:

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It’s pretty simple: the state uses more of your local taxes to fund your schools and decreases their share to use elsewhere in the budget. Mill levy override funds, on the other hand, aren’t part of the equation. All money from 3A and 3B stays in Jeffco and puts additional money in all our schools — charter, option, or neighborhood — and does so equitably. All students benefit.

Money from 3A becomes part of the operating budget; money from 3B is specifically for facilities, including capital maintenance, new construction, and school additions.

This chart that shows Jeffco’s state funding for the past several years. Note that 2016-17 funding is a mere $167 more than it was in 2009-2010.

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If state funding was keeping up with inflation, our students should be receiving $7,956 this year — $719 more than actual funding levels.

That’s why school funding needs a grassroots effort — in this case, 3A and 3B.

This graphic shows the difference that mill levy override funding makes for students. Boulder and Denver voters have approved many more 3A dollars for their students, which means their districts have more dollars for the classroom every year.

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Also, we’ve seen some crazy posts complaining that money from 3B isn’t being used to target student achievement. First, the law dictates that 3B money has to be used for facilities. Second, students learn better when they’re not being distracted by cold air from drafty windows, chilly classrooms from outdated HVAC systems, or water dripping into a bucket in their classroom because the leaky roof hasn’t been fixed. It’s just common sense.

A few other points:

1.  Yes, it would be nice if the state would get rid of the negative factor and restore that money to schools. But it hasn’t happened despite intense lobbying from Colorado’s superintendents, advocacy groups like Great Education Colorado, and individual citizens.

Instead, more cuts are predicted. Are we content to sit by and watch our school budgets get slashed again, or can we do better for our students? Our answer: by voting Yes on 3A and 3B Jeffco can do better.

2.  Marijuana money won’t dig us out of the funding hole. In fact, Jeffco isn’t receiving any pot tax. It isn’t and won’t help us with the current issues.

3.  Last, don’t forget that there is a cost to doing nothing in Jeffco. The leaky roofs won’t miraculously repair themselves. The cost to educate students and maintain our facilities won’t decrease if we choose to ignore it. We’ll talk about that more in another post.

Want one more reason? Watch Jeffco Economic Development Corporation Chair David Jones explain why the JEDC endorsed 3A 3B:

Please vote Yes on 3A and 3B, and then get those ballots in. Use this graphic to encourage others to vote by Nov. 8.

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JeffCo Proud!

Myth-Busting the Jeffco Schools 3B Bond

As we’ve explained in previous posts, voters are being asked to approve mill levy override and bond issue on this fall’s ballot, known as 3A and 3B. We’ve seen a lot of false statements by the anti-tax crowd that opposes it, so today we’d like to separate fact from fiction regarding the bond.

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Myth: 3B will increase the amount residents pay in property taxes in 15 years.

Fact: This bond is structured like recent previous bonds, such as those in 2004. It is a 25-year bond and the financial piece has been organized to make sure the burden to the taxpayers is consistent throughout the next 25 years.  

Those perpetuating the myth that the costs will go up have forgotten that Jeffco will pay off previous bonds during this time period, which will allow them to keep the cost to taxpayers the same, whether taxpayers are paying their taxes next year or in twenty.

Myth(s): Too much (or not enough) of the bond is being allocated to new schools. Too much (or not enough) of the bond is being allocated to Jeffco’s maintenance backlog. Too much (or not enough) of the bond will be used for additions to existing schools.

Fact: The bond balances the district’s need for new schools in growing areas of the county, with the ability to create efficiencies by adding classrooms to some existing buildings rather than construct entirely new schools.

The reality is that in some areas, more classrooms at an existing school will address our students’ needs, while in other areas — particularly those that were mere fields back in 2008 — need an entirely new school. All of our existing schools also have maintenance needs, and part of the bond will also be used to address the most critical needs.

Myth: All sorts of bond money will be wasted on fees and overruns.

Fact: Any good bond will be structured so that the projects in the bond won’t exceed the value of the bond.

If you’ve done any kind of major renovation of your house, you know that the initial cost estimate is just that: an estimate. The cost of construction materials alone has skyrocketed in Jeffco in the past years as building has boomed, and those costs also affect any construction and maintenance done to our schools.

If the bond didn’t include contingency dollars and the cost of supplies inflates even more, either the school would be forced to come back and ask for more money to complete the promised projects, or they’d have to tell certain communities, “sorry, we wanted to do that but we ran out of money.”

Structuring the bond to account for inflation and to make sure that projects will not exceed the bond amount is smart financial planning — and the reason that the Jeffco Schools Financial Oversight Committee encouraged the school board members to put 3A and 3B on the ballot.

Myth: This is a “billion dollar bond.”

Fact: This is a $535 million bond and calling it anything else is just plain silly.

A bond is a lot like a mortgage. Schools borrow the amount they need, and they pay it back with interest. If you borrow $80,000 for a mortgage, you call it an $80,000 mortgage even though you’ll pay much more than that with interest. 3B isn’t any different.

The district has typically included the entire payback amount in the ballot language. While we agree that the payback amounts are shocking to see (and for that matter, think that about car payments and our own mortgages too!), there’s nothing unusual here.

As a comparison, the 2012 ballot for the voter-approved $99 million warm, safe and dry bond read as follows:

SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S DEBT BE INCREASED $99 MILLION WITH A MAXIMUM REPAYMENT COST OF $195 MILLION OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY, AND SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S TAXES BE INCREASED $19.8 MILLION ANNUALLY OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY FOR THE PAYMENT OF SUCH DEBT …

Here’s the language in this fall’s ballot:

SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S DEBT BE INCREASED $535 MILLION WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF $987.22 MILLION OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY, AND SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S TAXES BE INCREASED $72.6 MILLION ANNUALLY OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY FOR THE PAYMENT OF SUCH DEBT….

Let’s compare them.

2012

  • $99 million bond
  • Total payment to not exceed $195 million

2016

  • $535 million bond
  • Total payment not to exceed $987.22 million.

The repayment is similar, except in 2016 the district is able to make a better deal thanks to low interest rates. If this bond was structured the same as the 2012 $99 million bond, it actually could have had a total payment that is $71.56 million more.

We’re no math whizzes, but we think saving more than $71 million by borrowing now is a pretty good deal.

The 3B bond is a strategic, thoughtful decision that will allow Jeffco to repair, update, and build well-maintained schools for our students. We encourage you to vote Yes on 3A and 3B and hope you will encourage others to do the same.

Have you voted yet? If not, remember that you can drop off your ballot at any of the county’s drop boxes, send it by mail (though use 2 stamps just to be on the safe side.

Every vote counts, and we hope you will support 3A and 3B. Please also help us get out the vote by encouraging others to turn in their ballot and then use this fabulous profile picture to encourage even more voters to turn their ballots in too. Thank you!

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JeffCo Proud!