Aurora Public Schools zeroing in on $31 million budget shortfall plan

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AURORA | The Aurora Public School District has been hard at work trying to address a $31 million projected budget shortfall in next year’s school budget. With a draft budget finalized and now in the hands of the APS Board of Directors, it’s now up to them to fine tune it.

The proposed budget, which includes $345.7 million in operating costs, was presented May 2 to the school board. It will now be worked over in several meetings (see schedule below) before a final vote in June takes place.

The school district’s money woes are due in part to a decrease in student enrollment after years of continued growth. For the last 10 years, APS has had an annual 2.5 percent increase in student enrollment. Last year challenged this growth assumption, with the student population declining by about 700 students, forcing the district to make small cuts and to use $8.2 million from their fund balance, or what they call their “short-term savings account.”

Another reason for the school’s financial strains: the state Legislature. With final school financing pending, it is estimated the state’s negative factor, which represents the amount below what the state should be financing the school system according to Amendment 23, will increase by $2.4 million.

“What we’re a little sensitive to is people thinking this is just an APS problem. Most districts around the state are experiencing significant budget challenges and declines in revenue,” said Superintendent Rico Munn in an interview before the May 2 presentation. “I think we’ve gotten a lot of attention because we’re one of the largest districts (in the state).”

The $345.7 million represents a drop of $16 million from what APS estimates it will spend in this year. APS will spend about $10 million less on general instruction than what it is forecasted to spend this year, and $1.3 million less in pupil and instructional support.

Board Treasurer Barbara Yamrick, who worked on the Strategic Budget Advisory Committee, said the process to get to the proposed budget represented a “heroic effort” by the budget department and administration.

“The people I have spoken to seem to feel it has been a fair process. I did check back with the people who have written and called me and asked what they felt about it and asked other community members,” Yamrick said. “Everyone that I asked or talked to seem to feel that it was not the best budget because we didn’t have the money to fulfil everything they wanted. But they felt that it was a fair budget given the shortfall.”

Board Director Cathy Wildman said she felt there could be ways to streamline administrative costs to help soften cuts in other areas.

“After looking at the job openings we have right now, I’m still a little concerned about where we made cuts and the current postings. I’d like to have more information about that. I still think we can make some more cuts and be more efficient,” Wildman said.

APS upcoming school budget meeting schedule

All meetings are at the Aurora Public Schools Professional Learning and Conference Center, 15771 E. First Ave.

• APS Accountability Advisory Committee budget review at 6 p.m. May 15.

• APS School Board work session at 6 p.m. May 16.

• APS School Board meeting for the initial vote at 6 p.m. June 6.

• APS School Board work session and consent vote at 6 p.m. June 20.