School-Based Budgeting

It is budget time again! DCSD is a rarity in terms of school districts in that it allows schools to have a great deal of autonomy in how they spend their budget dollars. Site-based budgeting gives local school communities a greater voice in what personnel they want to hire, what proportion of classroom teachers they want to have, and what programs they would like to emphasize.

Now that the Colorado General Assembly, or state legislature, has adjourned and school districts are receiving budget numbers, questions are beginning again about school-based budgets and how those allocations work. Using an actual elementary school budget from this current school year, I will walk you through the way the district allocates money to schools, and how a school might spend its budget on its own priorities.

It may be useful for you to consult the following infographics as you read. The information that follows is a narrative meant to accompany them.

Where do the dollar figures come from? 

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The school begins with a worksheet and a base student-based budget pupil allocation (SBBPA). This amount is $3,722. This is based on a proportion of projected state funding. Although the legislature passes a budget every spring, this can change at any time due to unforeseen circumstances. For example, several years ago, the state rescinded $9M from DCSD toward the end of the year because its projections exceeded the actual revenues and it could not pay DCSD the full amount promised.

Every fall, enrollment is counted on October 1, or Count Day. Budgets are completed before this date, but the actual count is where schools reconcile their projections with their actual numbers and the final budgets are set. Our notional school has 74 kindergarten students and 472 students in grades 1-6. Although the SBBPA will be the same, local mill levy override dollars will be $30 additional per student in kindergarten, and $60 additional per student in grades 1-6.

The kindergarten total allocation is $277,648, and the total for grades 1-6 is $1,785,104. Together these numbers add up to $2,062,752.

This is not the only funding available to the school, however.  The district provides additional funding support in several forms. First, there are non-discretionary allocations depending on the school and its needs. Needs such as Gifted and Talented, Special Education, English Language, and Literacy are funded. These are non-discretionary because they are either required by law, like special education, or are otherwise a constrained expense.  Non-discretionary funds add up to $701,156 at our school.

Discretionary expenses are not necessarily positions or expenses that the school would want to do without, but rather are those that have a certain amount of flexibility. These include the principal, heath assistant, and the volunteer coordinator. These positions can have varying amounts of contract hours so that the dollar allocation for these is discretionary. Total discretionary funds at this school are $135,244.

Other discretionary allocations are based on specific needs such as the Student Success Act, which funds certain requirements laid out in state law, and highly impacted school funds, meant to alleviate issues caused by circumstances beyond a school’s control (e.g. small size). These funds add up to $52,300.

The sum of these different line items:

$2,062,752 [SBBPA Total]    
$701,156 [Non-Discretionary]
$135,244 [Discretionary]
$52,300 [Other Additional Discretionary]
$2,951,452 [Total]

How is the school choosing to spend its allocation?

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In its budget worksheet, the school lays out its chosen expenditures. A single FTE accounts for 2,080 hours per year. Using this calculation, schools lay out personnel in terms of FTEs while giving each individual a line item. They will have 37 classroom teachers (31.95 FTE), 3 administrators and 1 administrative intern (3.047 FTE), and 16 classified staff such as office support and classroom aides (6.73 FTE). Some teachers and almost all support staff are part-time, enabling the school to hire more individuals than FTE and thus being able to meet its needs. Total FTE are 41.73.

Additional expenses include instructional supplies ($92,247; printing, textbooks, etc.) and support services ($5,000; phone costs, mileage, etc.). With these expenditures, the $2,951,452 is spent.

The school, however, has a few small additional funding sources at its disposal. Full-day kindergarten tuition proceeds and before/after school care fees add up to $221,301 that the school may keep and decide how to spend. This adds up to $405 per student in non-SBB dollars. The school chose to pay an additional 2 FTEs entirely from this money, as well as contributions to four more teacher salaries and one educational assistant with special training. The total is 3.12 FTE spread out among seven positions. Additionally, $7,890 dollars for supplies will be allocated from this pool.

The total amounts are as follows, district-funded and school-funded.

41.72 FTE + 3.12 FTE = 44.85 FTE Total
$2,951,452 + $221,301 = $3,172,753 Total

The dollar figure per FTE is $70,748. Per student, the dollar figure is $5,811.

From all tax revenue sources, both local and state-based, the 2014-15 funding is $6,764 per pupil, or the per pupil revenue figure (PPR). This means that the dollars per student, as a percentage of state PPR, is $5,811/$6,764, or 86%. Taking away the school-raised dollars, the dollars per student as a percentage of PPR—from district PPR sources—add up to $5,406/$6,764, or 80%.

This means at least eight of every ten dollars that comes to the district gets passed through to the schools. We believe that schools can make informed decisions about their individual needs based on input from their teachers, parents, and community. As the budget process continues over the course of the next month until final approval, I look forward to conversations with taxpayers about these important priorities.