Panel to 27J: Wait for mill-levy override

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With 27J Schools Superintendent Chris Fiedler’s words as a backdrop, a 15-member panel of Brighton citizens examined the district’s finances and made a presentation to the 27J board.

Even though the panel found that the district’s funding was “way behind” and not at all competitive with other districts in the area, the commission recommended a delay in a mill-levy override until the 2024 election.

It cited such factors as the present economy, hesitancy about funding issues with a potential recession, supply-chain issues and the price of gasoline.

The panel and the district agree on this. Even though the district says its funding is the third-lowest in the state, “the ends have gotten so far apart that they can’t meet unless significant changes are made.”

“We need to look at our challenges in a different way and through the lens of the community’s values and priorities. We need to get our community’s best thinking on how to address the funding issue,” Fiedler said in a written statement. “We’ve made significant sacrifices over the years just to balance our budget and provide the services we can. We’ve gotten to the point where this is unsustainable.”

The non-partisan committee (its members included a state senator, an Adams County commissioner, parents, grandparents, recent district graduates and city council members) looked at the funding for schools, past 27J funding decisions and their impacts and what should be the next direction to take. John Myers, a retired partner with the firm Augenblick, Palaich and Associates that specializes in education finance policy, was the chairman.

“Understanding how schools are funded is a tall order,” Myers said in the statement. “But this group has been tenacious in its work to really understand how all of the moving parts work together and exactly how 27J comes out in the end.”

Among its findings, according to the statement:

  • Colorado is among the lowest per-pupil funded states in the country;
  • The district gets about $2,000 less per student than compared to other metro districts. That adds up to about $41 million less than other metro districts each year when multiplied across the  27J district's enrollment of about 20,300 students, the statement said.

“What we learned was that it really comes down to the fact that not many of us understand the role of local communities in ensuring schools can survive and are competitive,” Myers said in the statement. “We, personally and collectively, took a hard look at how well we resource schools. This includes resources to support students with teachers, an effective education support system, technology, and keeping all students and staff safe.”

Even with the lack of funding, the statement said the district’s graduation rates are improving. The rate is 88.2 percent, fifth-highest in the Denver area, according to the release. It went on to say that recent independent polling “affirmed the value grad rates as a measure of academic success in 27J.

Fiedler’s formal recommendation on the next step is due Tuesday, Sept. 6, during a special board meeting.

School District 27J, school finance, independent committee

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