Poudre School District braces for budget cuts due to economic toll of coronavirus pandemic
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Poudre School District is planning to cut its budget by $16 million — or 5% — during the coming school year due to expected state funding reductions spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I need to share with the grim magnitude of what we are expecting, as well as the options we are considering,” Superintendent Sandra Smyser wrote in an email to the district’s families Friday. “The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a significant negative economic impact in Colorado, as spending constricts and tax collections plummet.”
In PSD, that impact could total anywhere from $2 million to $28 million, Smyser wrote, based on what Colorado school districts have been told to expect: a state funding drop of between 1%-10% next school year. The district is modeling its budget with a 5% reduction “based on the best information we have,” Smsyer said.
District schools on Friday were working with staff through scenarios for the coming year, expecting a reduction in employees across the district.
“For the next budget year, we will likely make some difficult choices to bring our expenditures in line with a new and lower revenue reality,” Smyser wrote, adding that the district will still face “significant reductions” even if it were to get federal funding to offset cuts.
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How deep PSD’s cuts will be will depend on the state budget, which is expected to be set by the Colorado Legislature and approved by Gov. Jared Polis by the end of May, Smyser said. The PSD Board of Education has to approve its final budget by the end of June, which is the end of the district’s current budget year.
“These decisions are going to come at us with unrelenting speed,” Smyser wrote.
Options being considered to cut the district’s budget, according to Smyser’s email, include:
“All of these options will create some level of disruption or inflict financial pain,” Smyser wrote. “There are also limits to what we can do with any of these options — at some point, they all become destructive and will limit our ability to serve students.”
Smyser told the district’s families that she values and will fight for the well-being of the district’s students as well as PSD’s short- and long-term stability.
“Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had students with significant needs for social emotional and academic supports,” Smyser wrote. “It is likely, then, we will have even more students returning to us next year with greater needs, amplified by this most astounding moment in our planet’s history. We must protect services and programs that are vital to our students’ success.”
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PSD expects to end the current budget year with a balanced budget and no impacts to staff pay, Smyser said, adding that the balanced budget alongside the district’s cash reserves will help the district face the upcoming budget challenges.
“At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Northern Colorado, you may remember what I said; it is something I still believe to this day: If ever there was a community to get through these unimaginable times, it is ours,” Smyser concluded.
Sarah Kyle is a content coach at the Coloradoan. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This content was originally published here.