Why You Should Vote Yes and Support School Bond and Mill Levies This November
At one time in my life I was a DINK – Dual Income No Kids and was asked to vote on a tax increase on my newly purchased home. I mentioned to someone at work that I was voting no on the school bond issue because I didn’t have kids yet and didn’t want to increase my taxes. I was already stunned by the property taxes and costs associated with my new home.
My co-worker, who also did not have children at the time, jumped on me and explained that the schools are what hold up a community. You don’t pay taxes for education to support YOUR own children in the district, you pay them to support EVERYONE. Great schools increase property values, decrease crime, encourage families and other residents to stay and be engaged in the community. They also educate children for future positions in the community such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business people. Children return to their childhood home area to raise their children IF there are solid education opportunities available.
That stopped me in my tracks and I immediately changed my vote to yes. I realized that the local school system isn’t just about the families who have children in it.
Fast forward about 10 years and I now have two children in public school…
Last spring I wrote a few posts about how and why Jefferson County Schools are struggling with budget cuts. This was before 3A/3B went on this Fall’s ballot. Jefferson County is not alone in it’s budget woes. Many school districts are suffering and asking for tax payers to give them an increase to support their local schools. My knowledge is based in Jefferson County and even though I cannot speak on behalf of any of the other school districts, but I urge everyone to support their local schools and vote yes on bond and mill levies.
There has been a lot of chatter about whether or not the district(s) are deserving of this tax increase. The state already gives Jefferson County about $6,309 per student per year. The district has 85,796 students. Do the math and that’s about $542 million dollars. Isn’t that enough to run a district on? Keep in mind that money goes to pay salaries for about 14,000 people, run 387 buildings at 171 sites, maintain supplies, curriculum, special programs like Outdoor Lab, training to stay current on educational trends and provide things like toilet paper in all of the bathrooms.
The district has lost $761 per student over the last few years in state tax money. Do that math and its lost about $63 million in funding. For the 2013/2014 school year the district is facing a loss of $43 million. The mill levy will only cover $39 million.
Jeffco Schools have offset some of the loss in funding by using money in its rainy day fund. That fund has been drawn down by $73 million over the last three years and there is NO MORE MONEY left to use from that fund. The district hit their 7% mandated cap under TABOR and school board requirements. There are no more rainy day dollars available to cushion the blow to the classroom because of the cap.
Despite all of this, the district has maintained a solid credit ranking. Credit ratings for Jeffco Schools were recently evaluated by credit rating agencies, which confirmed the district’s ratings of AA- and AA2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. Jeffco has maintained these ratings since before 2007.
For the critics who say the districts, especially Jefferson County, are admin heavy…Jeffco currently employs 133 central administrators for 14,000 full and part time employees. Jeffco spends approximately 3 percent of the general fund compensation budget on central administrative staff. It is the largest employer in Jefferson County and the largest school district in the state. The district also has more children on free and reduced lunch programs than any other district.
The critics also say Jeffco has mismanaged funds and didn’t plan for this when everyone saw it coming. Along with using some of its rainy day fund to offset some of the cuts, the district has also cut administrators, programs, school days and salaries to offset the costs. Jeffco spent approximately $7,734 per pupil in 2011-12. Jeffco calculates this general fund operating expense like every other school district in Colorado. Out of every dollar spent, 84 cents goes into the classroom and classroom support. Only 16 cents goes into maintenance, operations and general administration.
Don’t take my word for it…do your own research and read through Jefferson County’s budgets. They offer financial transparency and show how and where the money goes.
What will happen if 3A/3B do not pass? Most schools will lose at least 2 teachers, their 5th and 6th music program and Outdoor Lab. Here is what will happen if 3A/3B do not pass at each individual school… Click the link to find out what will happen at your neighborhood school.
Issue 3A will generate $39 million for operational costs which will help Jeffco Schools:
- Recruit and retain the best teachers
- Maintain classroom size
- Allow Jeffco to continue to provide students with the instruction and skills necessary for success in college and the workplace
- Ensure students have access to instrumental music, teacher librarians, electives, and Outdoor Lab as well as benefit from instructional coaching for teachers
- Restore two school days for students
If you are still considering a no vote, consider this – the tax increase will be about $15 per year (or $1.23 per month) per $100,000 that your home is worth. A $200,000 home will see a tax increase of about $30 a year. I completely understand feeling tapped out and run dry when it comes to donating to your local school. Fall is also fund raiser time, along with field trip money, bus fees, sports fees, etc etc etc. Public school is supposed to be free, right? But public school isn’t free. The money has to come from somewhere. If the state isn’t and can’t do its part to fund public education, the public must step up and help out.
If you must choose where to send your money, skip the fund raiser and vote yes on the bond and mill levy. That $10 to $50 that you will spend on taxes will help the schools more than any single fund raiser. Fund raisers are great and can raise money for the PTA fund, technology updates and more to a specific school. But state law prohibits fund raisers to save a teacher. The bond will save teacher jobs across the district. Five hundred to be exact.
Issue 3B will provide funds for much needed repairs and maintenance on Jeffco School’s buildings and facilities. These repairs are critical to ensure students are safe, warm and dry. They include:
- Upgrade safety and environmental systems, including fire protection, wiring, heat/air conditioning and plumbing
- Major roof replacement on 16 buildings
- Sidewalk and pavement replacement
- Window and door replacement
- Water heater, fire pump and roof drain replacement