on August 3, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on District asking for tax increases

District asking for tax increases

Jefferson County voters will be asked to approve a $ 568 million bond and mill levy override package to help fund Jeffco Schools facilities and ongoing costs this November.

“The need has been very well documented for us in the few months we’ve sat on this board,” said Ron Mitchell, president of the board of education. “The timing in financing bonds is very good and this is an opportunity we should not miss … more importantly, we said throughout our campaign that we will serve the 86k in Jeffco and we stand on what is doing right for 86k students in Jeffco.”

The Aug. 2 decision places the two proposals — a $ 535 million bond issue and a $ 33 million mill levy – on the Nov. 8 ballot. The bond would fund both phases in the district’s Facilities Master Plan, including the creation of several new and replacement schools, renovation, and overdue maintenance — in every area of the district.The mill would provide additional operating costs for compensation increases, the ability to hire additional mental health employees and increase funds for technology, security, school budgeting and more.

“We have got to make sure that we become the masters of our own destiny in this district and the we maintain the funds to retain the very best teachers in this district…,” said board member Brad Rupert. “We’ve got no reason to believe that suddenly there will be a miraculous solution to the funding problem and the funding will be given to us. … We have to do what we can to try and close the gap in funding.”

If approved, the proposal could mean an increase of an average of $ 134 per year in property taxes for the average taxpayer in Jeffco, based on average home values. 

The few residents who spoke during the July 28 and Aug. 2 board meetings on this issue, said they would support those tax increases.

“I believe that this board would stand with me for making this pledge and committment to work with the best of our ability to ensure the opportunities will be better for my granddaughter than they were for my son,” said Bill Bottoms, a parent of a Jeffco graduate and member of the citizen group, Citizens Who Support Jeffco Schools, which was founded to promote this bond and mill levy override.

Kendrick Lakes Elementary School mother, Jennifer Granberry said at the meeting that now is the time to push for the funding, as her school, along with the district’s other 153 schools are rapidly aging.

“It has become clear that we can no longer wait to put off the deferred maintenance and the maintenance any further, especially given the lead issue,” she said. “We need this money and we need this bond and mill levy money now.”

Annually, Jeffco has been receiving $ 77 million less than promised in state funding due to the negative factor, a number reflecting the amount of money Jeffco is not receiving each year due to a reduction in statewide K-12 education funding since 2010. In sum, the district has received $ 485 million less in funding since the 2009-2010 school year due to the negative factor.

“The deficits, the impact on our kids cannot continue…,” said Susan Harmon, board member of the total package. “When we are looking at this, we are broadly looking at this and we appreciate the significance and the impact, but the impact on our kids far outweighs the tax increase.”

The last time Jefferson County voters were asked to raise taxes for education was in 2013, when 65 percent of voters turned down Proposition 66, a sales tax increase to fund statewide education. 

Jill Fellman, a former member of the board (2011-2015) said she supports the current board’s decision.

“I share the belief that it is critical we ensure Jeffco students excel in an engaging, safe learning environment that prepares them for college or career,” she said. “We also want to attract and keep top teachers and make sure they have the resources they need to address the diverse needs of all learners.”

If approved, the bond tax will be in place for the next 20 years, and the mill tax will be permanent.

“PreK-12 funding in Colorado faces a lot of challenges,” said John Ford, president of the district’s teachers’ union in an Aug. 2 email. “… The negative factor, passed during the Great Recession, is still in effect and continues to grow. Once we have a finalized proposal for a bond and mill levy override, it will go through our process where our members, the educators who are in the schools every day, will determine if JCEA will support the effort this fall.”

Following the Aug. 2 meeting, the district plans to provide information to students, staff and Jeffco taxpayers on what the additional cost might looks like for individual households.

Harmon expressed this decision is one she has been waiting for and it’s time, she said, to lessen the deficit’s impact on Jeffco students.

“Our programs deserve this — our kids deserve this.”

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