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DCSD is navigating funding challenges

Watch a presentation by Interim Superintendent, Erin Kane, and District leadership on funding issues, from the February 16, 2017 District Accountability Committee meeting.


CASTLE ROCK – While other school districts in metro Denver are facing massive budget cuts, Douglas County School District has been able to avoid a similar situation primarily through reductions in central administration.

Recently, Aurora Public Schools announced plans to trim $31 million from its budget and Jeffco Schools decided to close a school in response to the shortfall it is facing.

DCSD faces smaller, but formidable funding challenges
Douglas County School District (DCSD) is also facing challenges – albeit much smaller than neighboring districts – because of increasing costs, stagnant funding and relatively flat enrollment across all DCSD schools.

The district has embarked on the budgeting process for the 2017-2018 school year and is  anticipating increased costs in several areas, totaling about $9 M. Below is an estimate of the additional funding needed, including several allocations being sent directly to schools:

  • PERA – $1.4 M (statutory .5% increase in rate to 19.94%)
  • Medical – up to $2.5 M (8% increase)
  • Special Education – $2.2 M (in schools)
  • Mental Health – $1.1 M (in schools)
  • Additional school nurse consultants – $450 K (in schools)
  • Highly Impacted* – $1.65 M (for schools - nearly tripled the current allocation)
  • New funding formula for assistant principals at an elementary level – $300 K (in schools)

*Highly impacted schools are those that face unique circumstances that inhibit their ability to operate utilizing normal budgeting, including dramatic changes in enrollment, large concentrations of at-risk or special education students, etc.

LEARN MORE: Funding Challenges Fact Sheet (PDF)

Additionally, it is important to note that every 1% in salary increases costs $3 M, and the yearly need of an additional $3 M for student device refresh has been funded the past 5 years with one-time monies.  The total need, then, is about $12 M plus another $3 M to fund a 1% pay increase.

While projections show relatively flat enrollment across all Douglas County schools, neighborhood elementary and middle schools are continuing to experience decreases.
Barring changes to current practice or enrollment forecasts, declining enrollment would result in a reduction in funding at the elementary level of about $2.4 million and $1.4 million at the middle school level.

High schools as a whole, however, are expected to receive an additional $600,000 in funding due to an increase in enrollment.

Central administration reductions, budgeting change to lessen impact
As Interim Superintendent Kane explained in a letter to employees and parents on January 27, by realizing significant savings in central administration, DCSD will be able to cover much of these new costs.

“While budgets are still in the process of being finalized, we have realized savings of $500,000 in cabinet (senior leadership) and at least $2 million in other central departments. Once the 2017-2018 budget is finalized, we will report more specifics on these savings,” Kane explained in the letter.

A change was also made to school-based budgeting process to help lessen the impact of decreasing enrollment facing DCSD elementary schools. Instead of all schools paying the same average amount for a teacher during the budgeting process, now elementary, middle and high school levels will be differentiated, just as DCSD does for other job categories. This matches the reality that secondary teachers also generally earn more than elementary teachers.

“This change did result in a shift,” Kane shared in the letter.

The result was that high schools, on average, have roughly $200,000 less in purchasing power than they would have had without the change.

The chart below shows the 2017-18 purchasing power and enrollment impacts along with revenue changes, carry over, and fees on average along with the added per student allocation and projected available carryover.


Purchasing Power Impact (Avg)

Additional $60/Student Allocation (Avg)

Enrollment Change Impact (Avg)

Projected Available Carryover (Avg)

Student Fees/Athletic Funding (Avg)


($217 K)

$119 K

$62 K

$413 K

$865 K


($116 K)

$62 K

($135 K)

$275 K

$243 K


$63 K

$28 K

($51 K)

$70 K

$23 K


The information above shows averages, but the reality is that some individual schools (at all levels) were hit harder than others. For this reason, DCSD allocated $2.4 M in “highly-impacted” dollars to fill in the gaps for our schools that are struggling the most due to low enrollment (loss of economy of scale) and/or their population of highly-impacted students. $1.2 M of those dollars went to secondary schools.

“We met with each secondary school leader and where needed we backfilled with highly-impacted dollars,” said Assistant Superintendent Ted Knight.

It is also important to note, according to audited financial data for year ending June 30, 2016, high schools ended the 2015-2016 school year with approximately $4.0 million in carryover. Currently, high schools are projected to be $500,000 under budget for 2016-2017 school year, increasing high school carryover to a total of $4.5 million.

This will mean that DCSD schools will not face the deep cuts experienced by other Denver area school districts – or scheduling changes – this year as a result. Some, however, are having to cope with decreased enrollment.

Learn more at two events
Information about school budgeting process will be available at two upcoming events.     

District Accountability Committee Special Meeting
Thursday, February 16, 2017; 6:00- 8:00 P.M.
Mesa Middle School, 365 Mitchell Street in Castle Rock

District Accountability Committee Winter Forum
Tuesday, February 28, 2017; 6:00- 9:00 P.M.
Rocky Heights Middle School
11033 Monarch Boulevard in Highlands Ranch

Budget process continues: State funding determined in April
In future months the DCSD Budget department will be providing potential funding scenarios based on the most current information from the Governor’s office and state legislature.

The legislature does not finalize the budget until about April.

The combined impact of TABOR and Gallagher Amendments is causing serious funding issues at the state level. Below is what funding could look like. Again, the chart below includes the device refresh, which is an additional $3 M need for ongoing monies.

Potential Funding Scenarios: Neighborhood Schools
Note: DCSD charter schools are also impacted but the dollar amounts are not reflected here.



Worst Case


Best Case

Change to PPR




Impact to DCSD Funding

($0.8 M)

$5.1 M

$9.0 M

Cost Increases

$12.0 M

$12.0 M

12.0 M

DCSD Funding Gap*

($12.8 M)

($6.9 M)

($3.0 M)

*Should the worst case occur, potential funding sources to fill in the gap: additional central administration cuts, reallocation of Additional Pay budget (former Pay for Performance), reduce or eliminate device refresh, potential increase in SOT or abatement levy property taxes (not realized until August 2017).

Note: Schools carried over $16.9 M in the General Fund last year. These dollars are available for schools to use to fill in gaps.

We will continue to provide updates as this situation develops.


February 15, 2017 | By rmbarber | Category:

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