GOLDEN — The majority of the Jefferson County school board Thursday gave its approval to a billion-dollar budget that would allocate more money for teacher compensation, charter schools, and build a school for 600 students in the northwest corner of the county.
The 3-2 vote decision marks the end of a second year of contentious budget conversations.
The board also unanimously approved an agreement on teacher pay between the district and the teachers union.
The budget debate this year focused on how the district should spend a smaller-than-anticipated increase in state funding and savings from last year.
And while the board approved the construction of a new school in Arvada, there was debate about how to finance it.
District officials, including Superintendent Dan McMinimee, suggested the district should issue Certificates of Participation, or COPs, to build a new school in Arvada for kindergartners through eighth graders.
COPs work like a mortgage for government agencies. Agencies take out a certain amount of money and pay it back over time with interest. Jeffco Public Schools have used COPs before. And more recently, Aurora Public Schools issued COPs to build a new school to offset its over own overcrowding issues.
However, members of the Jeffco board majority refused to take out the loan, arguing the district should not spend money it didn’t have.
“This is not a time to take on debt or additional burden,” said board chairman Ken Witt.
In the end, the 2015-2016 budget will provide more than $15 million in compensation increases, with $4.6 million going to teacher raises. About half of the $15 million is allocated to mandatory health insurance and pension increases.
Another $2.5 million will be distributed to the district’s charter schools. This will complete board chairman Ken Witt’s mission to fund district-run and charter schools equitably.
And $3 million will be earmarked to build the new elementary school in Arvada. That $3 million will be combined with $15 million left over from the current school year to fund the construction.
“We still don’t have a plan to account for the dramatic increase expected,” board member Jill Fellman said.
District officials are expecting 6,000 new students in Arvada during the next seven years.