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Citizens Budget Academy trains volunteers to help balance school district budget

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By Barbara Ford

Jeffco Public Schools’ Citizens Budget Academy teaches volunteers the ABC’s of running the largest school district in Colorado.

The academy is a series of six classes that started in early September, taught by district leadership. About 75 citizens learn about every aspect of the district in the hope that they can come up with viable solutions to budget problems. Their feedback will help structure Jeffco Public Schools’ 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets.

The district will need to cut another $70 million from its budgets over the next two years. For the current school year, the district cut $26 million, and $14 million was trimmed from the 2010-11 budget.

Lorie Gillis, chief financial officer for Jeffco Public Schools, said the training creates a better-informed group to help address tough budget issues facing the district.

“It is in the district’s best interest to ensure the community has solid factual information, so that when we get into the efforts of balancing the budget, they will have a good starting point,” Gillis said. “The CBA is informed citizenry.”

Once the academy is complete, work groups will begin to tackle budget issues and ultimately make recommendations to the school board in May 2012.

Though work groups have been utilized in the past, Gillis said this is the first year a formal academy has been implemented. She said valuable problem-solving time is lost when people don’t have an understanding of how the district works. Training at the beginning of the process saves precious time.

“We want to make sure we have a broad brush of citizenry to make recommendations, and we need people who are supporters and people who are challenging us,” Gillis said.  “We will make better decisions if we have differing opinions in the room, and our goal is to get a good representation of all parts of the community.”

The academy is not accepting new members, but people are welcome to attend the training sessions as audience members.

In early November, the Citizens Budget Accountability Council will be formed with approximately 20 people, including district leadership, employees and 10 CBA graduates who attended at least five training sessions. Those not chosen for the council will still be able to participate in the budget process in other ways.

“This is about transparency and this is so important that this is out there,” Gillis said.

 

Contact Barbara Ford at barbara@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1043. Check

www.HighTimberTimes.com for updates.

 

 

 

The Citizens Budget Academy meets from 5 to 7 p.m. at the district administrative offices, 1829 Denver West Drive, No. 27, in Golden. The public is invited.

• Sept. 27: Instruction, special education and student assessment.

• Oct. 4: Capital reserve funds, facilities master plan, support services, transportation, business services and leadership.

• Oct. 11: Internal service funds such as central services, employee benefits, information technology and risk management, debt service funds, and financial outlook.

After the CBA is complete, district budget workgroups will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 18 and Oct. 25 to begin to formulate an initial list of budget reductions.