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St. Vrain board looks at budget for upcoming school year

Compensation not yet finalized, but finances are healthy overall
tony whiteley
In this file photo, Tony Whiteley, executive director of budget and finance for SVVSD, speaks before the school board adopts FY 2022 budget on June 23, 2021.

With the St. Vrain Valley School District gearing up to pass its budget for the upcoming school year, the school board spent Wednesday’s workshop diving deep into the finances.

Executive Director of Budget and Finance Tony Whiteley outlined the district’s conservative approach to budgeting for revenues and expenses. The upcoming budget is for fiscal year 2023, which runs from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.

Whiteley said he expects the district to begin the 2023 fiscal year with about $152 million, about $19 million more than was budgeted to wrap up the 2022 fiscal year, which was more than expected, thanks in part to additional funding and COVID money from the state.

Exact compensation for the upcoming school year is still unknown. The district and the St. Vrain Valley Education Association reached a verbal agreement Tuesday, according to Whiteley, but that has not yet been finalized. Compensation and benefits make up roughly 85% of the St. Vrain budget.

Assessed valuation of property is another big question mark that will affect the district’s mill levy override. The state legislature passed a law this year that will bring down assessed valuation rates, but how that will affect the district finances depends on how much the market rate values of properties within district boundaries go up.

Growth, while unknown, is less of a concern because the district budgets for zero growth of students and then makes adjustments to staffing once the school year begins.

The district plans to continue the Achievement Acceleration Academy and Project Launch programs for the upcoming fiscal year, but there is still work being done to determine specifically how it will be financed.

The board and superintendent also spoke about the district’s reserves, which are equal to about 35% of the district’s operating budget. While these are sizable reserves, Superintendent Don Haddad emphasized that these were built up using mill levies, interest, grants and bond program growth.

“It’s really important to understand that it’s not a fund balance that has been built on the backs of our employees or built on the backs of anyone,” Haddad said. “It’s a fund balance that has been leveraged … I just think that’s really important for people to know so they don’t think we’re hoarding money.”

He said that growing reserves allowed the district to refinance multiple times, saving the community $40 million in taxes, and helped to bring up the district’s bond rating from the lowest in the state to the highest.

The 2023 budget will be introduced at next week’s board meeting, with a hearing scheduled for June 8 and adoption planned on June 22.