APS proposes 2019 budget calling for 4% raise for teachers, spending hike to charter schools

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AURORA | Aurora Public Schools’ proposed budget for the upcoming school year isn’t expected to illicit the public anger the district saw during last year’s budget talks, and it calls for raising teacher pay by 4 percent.

Unlike the 2017-18 budget, when APS was surprised by declining student enrollment that caused an unexpected budget shortfall of around $30 million, this year’s budget doesn’t hold much in terms of surprises for the district. The proposed budget presented to the school board on May 1 is $37.4 million under last year’s budget. But the reduction over 2017-18 comes primarily from the district’s use of construction dollars created by the 2008 and 2016 mill levy approval.

“If you take away the decrease, we’re just about even year over year if you add all the funds together,” said Brett Johnson, APS chief financial officer, during the May 1 board meeting.

The district still saw its overall enrollment drop by 1,290 students, which means less overall money coming from the state. But APS saw the amount of money coming into the district increase by $6.7 million.

That 1.8-percent increase in cash coming in was from the state Legislature increasing per pupil funding by 3 percent and adding $150 million into overall education funding. Johnson said the proposed 3-percent increase in per pupil funding from the Legislature basically would balance out the decrease in funding due to the drop in enrollment.

As part of the contract with the Aurora Education Association, the district’s teachers union, pay for teachers increased by 4.05 percent, costing an additional $10.7 million compared to last year’s budget.

A big ticket item on this year’s budget was $2.5 million that was proposed to go to charter schools in the district. A bill passed by last year’s Legislature mandates school districts start to share tax revenue with charter schools in the 2019-20 budget cycle. But APS has proposed starting to share that revenue now in exchange for charter schools agreeing to pay more of their share for services from the district.

“We haven’t shared a proportional amount with charter schools (of tax revenue). But we also have not charged them a proportional amount of fees,” Johnson said. “And if the Legislature wants to right size one, we’d like to right size the other. We have a lot of administrative fees to support charter schools that are required by statute.”

The proposed budget also reflects the district paying $2.1 million more into its employees PERA accounts, the state retirement fund. But that isn’t a guaranteed thing. A bill working through the state Legislature might call for school districts to pay more into PERA to help shore up the struggling retirement fund.

The board is set to have a public hearing on the budget on June 5 and a vote on the final budget on June 19. Things could change between now and then depending on what final actions the Legislature takes before it shuts down for the year on May 9.