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Adams 12 proposing $12 million in cuts

THORNTON – The state’s fifth largest school district would eliminate 60 jobs and implement three furlough days for employees under a proposal to trim $12 million from next year’s budget.

Adams 12-Five Star Superintendent Chris Gdowski announced the plan Monday even as some in state circles celebrated a 2012-13 school finance bill that, for the first time in years, would hold K-12 funding steady.

But flat funding doesn’t repair the spending down of district reserves to plug budget holes and it doesn’t offset spiraling fuel, health insurance and pension costs.

Nor, as Gdowski pointed out, does one year of flat funding make up for the kind of deep and repeated funding cuts that prompted Adams 12 to cut 188 jobs in 2010-11 and another 164 positions in 2011-12.

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“Our revenues still are 13 percent lower than they were back in the 2009-10 school year,” he said. “So even though they won’t decrease for next year from what they are right now, roughly $6,300 per student, they’re 13 percent lower … which in the aggregate translates into $41 million less revenue to Adams 12 alone.”

For 2012-13, the district serving 43,000 students north of Denver is changing its course to trim this year’s $272 million general operating budget to $260 million. Instead of cutting even more jobs, district leaders are proposing a 3 percent reduction in employee pay through furlough days and an increased pension contribution.

In prior years, the district focused more on job cuts than on cutting employee pay.

The 60 positions targeted for elimination in 2012-13 would consist of about 51 teachers, 4 administrators and 5 clerical or other support staff.

Layoffs aren’t expected for teachers, Gdowski said, because the district typically loses about 150 teachers annually to retirement, non-renewals for poor performance and normal attribution such as family moves or career changes.

Some elementary schools will lose an assistant principal and 25 positions will be cut from the elementary teacher enrollment reserve pool, which assigns teachers to cover enrollment fluctuations.

The likely result is that some elementary classrooms would grow by three to five students next year.

High schools would be hit harder, losing three positions at each building or 15 high school teacher altogether. All classes would grow by, on average, one student each.

At both the middle and high school levels, class sizes in electives such as art, music and gym would be expected to grow. Some classes with lower enrollment may be combined, with teachers asked to teach different levels of the same subject in one room.

“I would describe this plan as one that calls for shared sacrifice for our staff throughout the system,” Gdowski said.

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“We need to get beyond just flat funding and substantially increase the money into public education for this to stop.”
–Superintendent Chris Gdowski

That includes those leaving the system, he said. Teachers and other staff who leave Adams 12 after 20 years of work receive longevity stipends and those amounts would be reduced under the budget plan.

That piece of the proposal, along with the furlough days and the increased pension contributions, are subject to negotiations with the district teachers’ union. Those negotiations are now scheduled to wrap up May 10.

Gdowski is expected this week to present the proposal to school board members, who must approve the final budget.

Other parts of the budget plan include a $15 per sport increase in the district’s athletic fee. Adams 12 implemented a textbook fee last year and began charging students to ride the school bus two years ago.

Adding to the budget pressures, Gdowski said, is declining enrollment in traditional district schools due to some centrally located aging neighborhoods and the recent opening of two charter schools.

Enrollment dropped 600 students this year and is expected to decline another 250 students in 2012-13.

Gdowski said no when asked if he can foresee a year when budget cuts aren’t required.

“I really don’t see any change to this until we get more revenue into the system,” he said. “We need to get beyond just flat funding and substantially increase the money into public education for this to stop.”