Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Bond

This is the second post in our series on understanding why the Jeffco School Board is asking for a mill and bond this year. Today’s post focuses on 3B, the bond.

How did we get here?

First, we’ll remind you that funding – or lack thereof – has been the biggest challenge for a number of years. You may remember this graph:

NegativeFactorWithout the negative factor, Jeffco Schools would have received $481 million more from the state during the past five years. Instead, Jeffco has been making do with less, while simultaneously petitioning legislators to reduce the negative factor and put that money back into schools. In real terms, this means we’ve been deferring maintenance, and that backlog is growing.

In addition, although Jeffco home values are at an all-time high, the resulting increase in your property taxes has not increased Jeffco’s funding. Instead, the state puts more of those taxes into schools, but then takes an equal amount of state funds to use elsewhere in the budget, as you can see in the graph below.

StateLocalfundingMill levy override funds are different. They stay in Jeffco and lead to increased per-pupil funding.

In 2012, we passed a $99 million bond to address the most urgent facilities needs like new roofs, HVAC systems and more. Those needs have been addressed — on time and within budget — but they only fixed Jeffco’s Tier 1 needs. We still had hundreds of millions of dollars of Tier 2-5 needs for our schools and facilities, and even more urgent maintenance issues have built up in the last four years.

Part of the issue is that our schools are, on average, 45 years old. Plumbing, roofs, HVAC systems, windows, fire alarm systems, and more are aging and need to be replaced. Every single school in Jeffco needs some sort of maintenance.

You’ve probably also read that Jeffco Schools was testing for lead in school pipes recently. They found lead that exceeded federal standards in about 8 percent of the fixtures tested so far. Jeffco Schools is now taking steps to fix this, but it’s another indication that our schools are aging, and we need funding that can adequately address these critical maintenance issues.

What will the bond do?

  • Upgrade old schools with updated security systems
  • Provide new schools in areas where Jeffco is growing. Our school district has not had a bond to fund new construction since 2004 when voters approved a $323.8 million bond.
  • Allow the district to address the repair backlog of leaky roofs, faulty wiring and more by improving, updating, and repairing 110 schools, including updating technology and lab spaces.
  • Renovate and construct additions at 45 schools and facilities to add more classroom space
  • Replace four current aging facilities
  • Construct three new elementary schools.

You can read more about the bond outline here and read the final facilities master plan here.

Want to know how your school will benefit? Jeffco Schools has an interactive web page that allows you to access information about your child’s school, schools in your neighborhood, and schools that you might be considering in the future.

This is also a good time for the district to consider a bond. Bond interest rates are some of the lowest we’ve seen in the last several decades, making this a cost-effective time to borrow.

We’ve also heard people asking why we can’t just convince the state to provide more funding. The short answer is that we’ve petitioned our legislators to do just that for many years, session after session, and it’s not happening. Superintendents around the state have advocated, as in this 2014 letter.

This year, the superintendents sent another letter, and a rally was held at the state capitol where superintendents and school supporters alike filled the room to show support. This writer was at that rally. It didn’t work.

Eagle Schools Superintendent Jason Glass summarized the issue nicely in a recent column: 

To make a long story short, this “negative factor” cuts nearly $1 billion from Colorado’s schools annually and accounts for an accumulated $40 million in cuts to [Eagle County schools] alone.*

I’d like to say that Colorado is on its way toward restoring these cuts. Alas, the cavalry is not on the way from the state. The plain, cold reality is that without a local solution, our schools will never return to pre-recession levels.

*JCSBW note: that amount is about $80 million per year in Jeffco, for an accumulated $481 million in cuts so far.

What we can — and must — do is create our own solutions. In Jeffco, the cost is reasonable: $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year to fund our school facilities and programming, and protect our home values.

We can support our Jeffco students by providing safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can make sure our Jeffco Schools continue to be some of the best in the area. We can make a better future for our students and our community.

3A3B

Also don’t forget to head over to Support Jeffco Schools to volunteer to help the Yes on 3A/3B campaign if you haven’t already.

JeffCo Proud!

 

What you need to know for the 6.16.16 BOE meeting

The World Is Run By Those Who Show UpThe Jeffco School Board met on Tuesday to talk about feedback regarding the proposed facilities master plan and give direction to the staff. It was a 7-hour meeting and nearly impossible to briefly summarize, but we’ll do our best.

Why do you need the summary? Because they’re going to vote on these items tonight at 5:30 pm. You can sign up for public comment, and we encourage you to do so if you have strong feelings about any of these items.

Tuesday’s meeting started with a review of TABOR, led by a representative from the Colorado State University Colorado Futures Center. You can look at the presentation here, but the long and short of it is that TABOR has negatively impacted school funding and in districts like Jeffco, taxpayers are now paying more taxes to fund schools than they would have if TABOR hadn’t been enacted. In addition, our schools are being funded at lower levels than they would have otherwise.

Then board members dived into the meat of the discussion: directions for staff regarding the proposed Facilities Master Plan. Two main points stand out:

  1. There is support for moving to a K-5, 6-8 model, but only if it’s done across the district at the same time. Feedback indicated that the community was open to a district-wide change, and board members largely indicated they would support it as well. Staff adjusted the plan accordingly, and with the exception of Jefferson and Alameda, the new plan reflects a K-5, 6-8 configuration, with additions or new buildings planning for that configuration as well.
  2. Board members are very reluctant to close any schools yet, though they are also concerned about balancing budget concerns with the budget challenges posed by smaller schools in aging buildings. Most wanted to see the district work with the school, perhaps to offer programming that might draw kids from the neighborhood back, or to do other work to otherwise give them a chance to grow again.
  3. Budget projects for the future are concerning and funding cuts may be on the way. Jeffco’s lobbyist told the board earlier that he thought funding that reflected inflation + enrollment would be an “optimistic” projection. As a result, the desire to be proactive and financially efficient while also meeting the needs of learning communities is a central point of this conversation.

A few other notes: according to Jeffco’s Communications Director, Diana Wilson, about 800 people participated in the 12 community forums and about 1,100 participated in the telephone town halls. She also pointed out the questionnaire was only to solicit input. (Also note that her department was posting all of the feedback they received, usually shortly after receiving it, and those should all be available for the public to review on the Jeffco Schools facilities master plan page.)

Now, the play-by-play, in an abbreviated fashion.

The board first talked about the proposed K-5, 6-8 configuration. Opportunities include the opportunity for sixth graders to have more access to clubs, electives, advanced math, access to teachers with degrees in math for struggling students, science classrooms, more art, music, theater, and more opportunities that better reflect the “whole child” concept in the Jeffco 20/20 plan.

Concerns include budgets and social readiness, among others. However, staff is recommending a two-year transition plan that would start with a school’s 4th grade students and families. That would allow families time to think about choice enrollment and also allow schools time to plan for what their budget will look like as a K-5 school.

Specific dates for grade reconfiguration weren’t mentioned, though the two-year transition plan suggests that the earliest date for reconfiguration would be 2018-19. If the reconfiguration is to roll out district-wide, that could be even later, since some of the middle schools would require an addition in order to fully accommodate the 6th graders. Terry Elliot mentioned a “rolling implementation,” though board members said they didn’t want to see “piecemeal” reconfigurations.

Student-based budgeting concerns were also addressed. The short version is that SBB models would continue to be flexible. The current model works best with schools of about 500 students and is problematic with elementary schools under 300 students; however, both Superintendent McMinimee and board members made it clear that they didn’t want to see schools negatively impacted. McMinimee said those numbers might change, and that the district might nee to find additional money in other places, perhaps from efficiencies in the district level or a mill levy override, to put additional dollars into SBB.

Board members were especially interested in hearing about how details like art, music, and PE teachers would be accommodated if schools lost a grade, and making sure that elementary schools don’t take a hit with the new reconfiguration. Ron Mitchell accurately noted that the devil is in the details, and that a lot of work will need to be done to make sure we’re not leaving 6th graders in limbo.

Amanda Stevens also asked how this change would affect schools in the Jefferson and Alameda areas that adopted a K-6, 7-12 model last year. The short answer is that those schools would maintain that configuration. There are no plans to move 6th graders to the 7-12 schools.

Here’s the area-by-area breakdown of BOE recommendations. We’re only noting the areas where board members disagreed with current staff recommendations or areas where the staff specifically asked for directions from the board.

  • Alameda

The board wants to keep both Patterson and Kendrick Lakes open, and recommended deferred maintenance for Patterson and a new 576 seat K-5 school for Kendrick Lakes.

  • Arvada

The board agreed with the staff’s new proposal to add six classrooms to Arvada K-8 so that all schools in the area could reconfigure to K-5, 6-8. Brad Rupert also said that Foster had specifically requested the opportunity to stay a K-6 school because of their dual-language program, and the board appeared open to that recommendation as well.

  • Arvada West

The board recommended keeping both Allendale and Campbell open, though this also presents challenges due to space limitations at one site and low enrollment at the other. Allendale’s capacity is 275, and Campbell’s is 365.

Amanda Stevens wanted to hear more about pathways to keeping the small schools sustainable. Ali Lasell wanted to make sure that closures are a last resort, done only after we’ve exhausted all other options. Brad Rupert also expressed concerns that those areas could start growing again as new families move into the area.

Deferred maintenance or a major renovation (though not addition) are possibilities for Campbell. Deferred maintenance, a new school, a major renovation or even an addition could be possibilities at Allendale. The board needed to know more numbers, but was pretty clear that they’re not ready to close schools yet.

  • Bear Creek

The board was comfortable with cabinet recommendations, though they suggested a new Green Gables School might be a better option than a renovation.

  • Chatfield

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Columbine

The board wanted to see more deferred maintenance done on Dutch Creek to make the school more competitive with its neighbors.

  • Conifer

OK with cabinet recommendations, though noted that Conifer HS is the only high school without an auditorium and that the addition of one is an equity item.

  • Dakota Ridge

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Evergreen

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Golden

Not willing to close Pleasant View yet. “Closing a school to me is a last resort, and it is a last resort after we have exhausted all efforts,” Lasell said.

  • Green Mountain

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Jefferson

Of note: a phased rebuild is proposed for Jefferson High School. Other suggestions included something like Warren Tech “East” offerings in the area for students.

  • Lakewood

The board recommends keeping Glennon Heights open and considering a boundary change from a nearby school that’s currently over capacity.

  • Pomona

The Little/Parr consolidation also met with a fair amount of discussion. Board members aren’t willing to close either school yet, in part because this is another area that might see growth in the next few years.

Parr attracts a number of students who live just across the street from the Jeffco boundary (in Westminster 50), for whom Parr is a much closer school. Parr also has approximately 100 preschool students. Little has more students and a vocal community that wants to keep that site open as well.

The board’s preference seems to be to keep both school open and build a new 576-seat school at the Parr site, which is a larger site that allows the district to build while keeping students in the current school during construction.

  • Ralston Valley

There was a question about whether an additional high school is needed, but the answer is no, not until there were enough new feeder schools to fill it. They also recommend keeping the proposed Leyden Rock school a priority for phase I.

  • Standley Lake

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Wheat Ridge

Here again, the board was reluctant to close any schools yet. Current recommendations are that Kullerstrand stays open and Prospect Valley gets a new school. The board was also in favor of keeping Vivian and Stober open, though those sites present some challenges. Among them: Stober students may need to go offsite for a year in order to renovate or build a new building.

  • Options Schools

Long View will have deferred maintenance for now, and they’ll begin longer discussions about that site in the fall.

 

The last discussion was about a potential mill levy override. Staff presented a list of funding priorities. The first was a potential backfill if the state does in fact cut funding in the next year or two. However, several possibilities were also listed for what the new funding could bring (assuming state funding remains stable):

  • mental health support for schools
  • security and emergency management
  • student-based budget (suggested at $200/student/year)
  • technology
  • compensation
  • charter school needs (note: charters will get full share of the mill levy override automatically; this would be an additional amount above that specifically dedicated to charter school needs)
  • activities and athletics
  • fees (athletics, Outdoor Lab, transportation)
  • full day kindergarten
  • support services

Tonight’s meeting starts at 5:30 pm in the Board Room. If you can’t be there, you can stream the meeting. We know these are big decisions, so we hope to see a lot of you there and voicing your opinion. If you think Jeffco should go ahead with a mill levy override on the ballot, board members need to know that. They also need to know what you would support (or wouldn’t support) as funding priorities.

If you think they need to stick to just asking for a bond to support construction, tell them. If you are concerned about one of the schools that was suggested for closure, be sure to tell them. There are big decisions and challenges ahead, and board members need to hear your voices to know how best to move forward.

Jeffco Proud!

5.5.16 FMP & BOE Meeting Preview

Before we get into the preview of Thursday’s BOE regular meeting, we would like to remind you of the importance of reviewing the district’s Facilities Master Plan and then sharing your comments with the board. You can email the board (board@jeffco.k12.co.us), attend one of the 10 remaining community meetings on the FMP to provide your input, participate in a survey online to share your thoughts and/or sign up here to speak to the board at Thursday’s BOE meeting during public comment.

Visit the Jeffco Schools website for more information about the FMP, including Frequently Asked Questions, information on funding challenges, and info on potential funding options.

Your Childs Education

Now, onto the upcoming BOE meeting. The study session begins at 5 pm (note the change: this study session starts a bit earlier than the usual 5:30 pm) a meeting between board members and the City of Edgewater’s mayor and city council members to discuss items of mutual interest. We recognize and appreciate the effort of this board to meet with our local officials to strengthen the partnership between our communities and our schools!

The regular board meeting begins at 6:30 pm.Here’s the link to watch the meeting online:  http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Honors, Recognition and School Reports

The board will honor Manning School student Ellie Schwiker for her first place award in the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Civil War Roundtable of New York 2016 national Civil War Research Essay Contest! You can read her essay here.

That’s followed by individual member school reports and public comment. Sign up here to address the board during public comment part 1, but remember that this part is reserved only for items on the agenda. If you want to speak on other items, sign up for public comment part 2.

The board will also recognize Jeffco Schools’ Wrestling State Champions from Pomona High School, Lakewood High School and Jefferson High School; and Golden High School and Bear Creek High Schools’ Debate State Champions!

Columbine High School soccer coach, Peter Horvath, will be recognized for being inducted into the 53rd class of CO High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and Ken Caryl Middle School’s principal, Patrick Sandos, will be recognized for his “unanimous and enthusiastic endorsement” for the Distinguished Service Award from the CO Association of School Executive (CASE).

Last, but certainly not least, Green Mountain High School principal Colleen Owens has been named 2016 Colorado High School Principal of the Year by CASE!

Congratulations to all of Jeffco’s amazing students and staff!

Proposed 2016/2017 Budget

After board reports and public comment, district staff will present the 2016/2017 Proposed Budget to the board. You can view their presentation and the proposed budget, and you can sign up to address the board about the budget here. This is a separate public comment period that will occur after the the proposed budget is presented to the board.

Note that the budget will be adopted at the next regular BOE meeting on June 2nd. Current projections suggest that the negative factor remains unchanged, meaning that school districts across the state are receiving $855 million less than they should be receiving under a fully-funded school finance formula.

Consent Agenda

You can review the Consent Agenda items here. Among other items, the consent agenda includes monitoring reports on EL-2, EL-3, EL-4 and EL-10. EL-2 and EL-10, specifically, will be discussed later on in the meeting under agenda item 9.0.

A couple of items are especially noteworthy:

There is a request to change the name of the current Stein Elementary at O’Connell (formerly McConnell Middle School) to Emory Elementary School. The proposal also suggests changing the name of the Rose Stein Elementary campus (currently closed for construction) to Rose Stein International Elementary School when it reopens in Fall 2017. Numerous forums and opportunities for community input were made before proposing these name changes.

In separate news, this time last year the district saw 4 administrator resignation, 5 teacher resignations and 25 classified staff resignations. This year, we have 1 administrator resignation, 2 teacher resignations and 15 classified staff resignations. We are hoping to see this trend continue into the summer. We won’t see the numbers for those who resign this summer until the first regular meeting in September, but we are hearing a renewed trust in the BOE. The big concern remains whether Jeffco can be competitive enough with surrounding districts to attract and retain the best and the brightest!

Third Quarter Financial Report

The final item of Thursday’s agenda that we’d like to draw your attention to is the 3rd Quarter Financial Report. You can review the presentation and the report.

Graduation Season

Congratulations to all students in the Class of 2016! Look for School Board members and other District staff at numerous graduation ceremonies over the next few weeks.

JeffCo Proud!

5.2.16 Jeffco Schools Facilities Master Plan Summary

lakwoodAt the end of April, staff presented an updated facilities master plan to the school board at a study session. First, we want to emphasize that the board has not voted on the plan, nor is it planning to finalize any of the recommendations soon.

What is happening is this: staff are now hosting a series of meetings around the district to explain the reasoning behind the plan, answer questions about details of the plan, and collect feedback from parents. The communications department staff is collecting the feedback and making it available to school board members, staff, and even to the public through links to community meeting feedback and survey feedback received before April 28 on the Districtwide Facilities Master Plan page on the Jeffco Schools website. Comments will continue be posted as they are received throughout the feedback process.

Jeffco Schools has also posted other important links with more information about the plan:

There are also multiple community meetings taking place between now and mid-June:

  • May 4, Conifer High School, 8–10 am
  • May 4, Green Mountain High School, 5-7 pm
  • May 31, Ralston Valley High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 1, Pomona High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 4, Stevens Elementary, 8-10 am
  • June 4, Arvada West High School, 11 am – 1 pm
  • June 6, Golden High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 8, Bear Creek High School, 8-10 am
  • June 8, Wheat Ridge High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 9, Stein at O’Connell, 6-8 pm

If you can’t make any of the meetings (or even if you can, but want to provide additional feedback), you can provide feedback via an online survey that is also posted on the Facilities Master Plan page.

So, you may find yourself asking, why are they doing this now?

There are several reasons:

First, the master plan hasn’t been comprehensively updated since 2011.

Second, you’ll likely remember the debate over how to best fund construction of a new school or schools in northwest Arvada: through a bond issue or through Certificates of Participation (COPs), or by pulling money out of classrooms to fund new construction. This was an issue during the recall election last November. The new board members voted to use COPs to build the K-8 at Candelas and to fund phase II of the Sierra Elementary construction. However, all of them were very clear that they prefer to use bonds to finance capital construction.

With that in mind, the board asked staff to update the master plan and to consider what a potential bond package might look like that also takes into account capital needs throughout the district. The facilities master plan is the result.

Third, we’ve been waiting a long time for the economy to get better and state funding to increase, right? Except that the economy has improved and everyone’s property taxes went up and a new marijuana tax was approved and Jeffco Schools still isn’t going to see much (if any) additional state funding. The “negative factor,” allows the state to keep those additional property and marijuana taxes and allocate it to other parts of the state budget — and in fact, our legislators are not giving those additional revenues to the schools.

Nothing about the current funding patterns seems like it will change anytime soon, so we in Jeffco need to tackle our current capital needs ourselves.

One of the big goals of this plan, besides addressing high-growth areas, school overcrowding, and schools with major maintenance needs like new roofs or HVAC systems, is to reduce the amount Jeffco spends on maintenance overall so that those dollars can be used in the classroom. Updated HVAC and electrical systems some schools will produce thousands of dollars in utility cost savings in the long run. It also means that in some cases, the plan suggests school consolidations or closures, along with the replacement of certain school buildings.

“Why are they closing schools and asking money to build new ones?” is a question we’ve heard frequently. The short answer is that on average, our schools are 45 years old and many have major capital needs. If, however, the school can consolidate two of those aging schools into one new and larger school, they’ll save money in the long run. The equation they use is something similar to the one that all of us use when deciding whether to repair or replace an aging car: at some point it becomes cheaper in the long run to buy a new or newer car than to continue sinking thousands of dollar into a 20-year-old car that’s in the shop every few months. A newer car means few if any repair costs and usually better fuel mileage (or in the case of schools, utility savings) as well.

That said, most of the proposals hinge on a successful bond campaign. Without one, it’s not possible to build a new school or addition necessary to consolidate two other schools. And they want the Jeffco community to have a plan that everyone is reasonably happy with, which is the reason they’re asking for so much community feedback. They want to know which parts of the facilities master plan need to be changed before moving forward.

A few more notes on cost: The plan also suggests a couple of minimal cost options. The first one boils down to what Jeffco is already doing: building a K-8 at Candelas, finishing phase II construction at Sierra Elementary, finishing the Rose Stein construction as planned, and continuing with the district’s deferred maintenance plan overall.

A second minimal cost option is to reconfigure schools in four articulation areas as K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools. It makes use of available space at the middle school level and creates space in elementary schools that may be lacking it. Note that the proposal is not a district-wide proposal to move to a K-5, 6-8 configuration, but rather one based on student numbers in each articulation area. Even in a proposal that is based on bond money, some elementary schools would be left in a K-6, 7-8 pattern in order to not overcrowd the middle school.

Our friends at Support Jeffco Kids posted a summary that includes summary information about each of the articulation areas, and we encourage you read that post or to take time to look at the links we’ve included above.

District staff plan to take the feedback to the board to consider at the board’s June 16 meeting. They are expected to provide further direction regarding the plan to staff at that time. Staff will then incorporate the direction into a new version of the plan, and we’d expect a vote on the revised version at a future meeting. There will also need to be a vote if the school board decided to put a bond issue on the ballot.

As you can see, everything is in the very early stages of planning. Look at the information or attend a forum and then let the board members know what you think through one of the above channels or by simply writing them at board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

JeffCo Proud!