You are here

Colorado Public School Finance

Colorado school finance header


Colorado public schools receive money from a variety of sources. However, most revenues to Colorado's 178 school districts are provided through the Public School Finance Act of 1994.

The total amount each school district receives under the School Finance Act is referred to as “total program,” which includes both the state share and local share. The local share is generated through property taxes and specific ownership taxes (vehicle ownership taxes).

Total program funding equals:

Funded pupil count times per pupil funding plus at-risk funding plus multi-district online and extended high school funding

After the total program is calculated, the budget stabilization factor (formerly the negative factor) is applied. The budget stabilization factor was established in 2010-11 by the legislature as a way to reduce funding to districts to balance the state budget. Once  total  program is calculated per the School Finance Act, the budget stabilization factor is applied to  district’s  total program funding



2018-19 base per pupil funding: $6,768.77

Here are the factors that adjust base per pupil funding:

  • Cost of living: Determined by a legislative study every two years. Districts with higher costs of living have a higher factor. For example, Aspen has a higher cost of living factor than Center.
  • Personnel costs: Personnel costs vary by school district based on enrollment. For all districts, employee salaries and benefits represent the largest single expense. As such, the formula directs funding based on application of the above cost of living factor to estimated personnel costs.
  • Size of district: Similar to the personnel costs, the size factor is unique to each district and is determined using enrollment. Small districts have larger size factors than districts with higher enrollment.



Below is an example of how the total program is calculated based on the FY2018-19 final appropriation. There are many additional calculations. Each district has different calculations based on individual demographics and characteristics.

Each element of the formula has its own formula behind it. For example, the size factor is determined by a formula for each district. The at-risk funding has its own formula, etc.

District Z has 20,421.4 students (105 are multi-district online students) multiply $6,768.77 the 2018-2019 base funding per pupil. Base, per-pupil funding is uniform for all school districts.
Multiply previous sum by (1.181 [cost of living amount] Multiply 89.64% [personnel costs] )plus (1-89.64% [Personnel costs] Multiply $6,768.77 [base funding] )
Multiply previous sum by 1.0297 [size factor] equals $164,575,842.50 or total formula funding
Add to previous sum $12,978,700 for total at-risk funding and $857,010 for total multi-distirct online and extended high school pupils, equals
$178,411,552.50 total formula funding before budges stabilization factor or $8,736.50 per pupil funding
Budget stabilization factor $178,411,552.50 multiply 8.70% [budget stabilization factor] equals $15,529,394.79 total program funding less budget stabilization factor equals $162,882,157.71. District Z's total per-pupil funding $7,976.00