ASPEN - Proponents of Proposition 103 on the November ballot have narrowed in on what the statewide measure will likely bring in to Aspen's public schools if approved: approximately $1.17 million, or $697 per student, in 2013.
"If this passes, we would be the only state in the nation to stop the cuts to public education and reinvest in our community," Carol Hedges, director of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, said last week while stumping for the ballot initiative in Aspen. "This is our chance to make a difference; to be leaders."
Proposition 103 would raise state income and sales taxes for five years to fund education. According to its supporters, "Proposition 103 will restore some of the deep cuts for five years giving revenues time to recover and state leaders time to find a more lasting solution."
"This is triage," said Hedges. "It's simply a stopgap to get us through this economic recovery without making additional cuts ... and our children cannot afford more cuts."
Colorado currently ranks 40th in the nation in per pupil funding, and the past few years have seen major cuts to education. In Aspen, the public schools have been forced to make significant budget reductions, though a voter-approved mill levy override and support from organizations like the Aspen Education Foundation has helped soften the blow.
"So far, we've been able to keep the cuts away from the classroom, but we are out of options," said AEF director Helen Ward. "If we don't do something now, we will start to see real, dramatic cuts in our local schools."
Proposition 103 would help reverse this trend, according to Hedges.
If voters approve it, Proposition 103 would raise around $3 billion over five years (or $536 million annually); the funds would be used to fund preschool through higher education, with the monies allocated based on existing school funding formulas. In Aspen, it would mean nearly $700 per student.
"Yes, there is a cost. But the question is, what will it cost if we don't do this?" Hedges asked. "Is there one kid in the state of Colorado who is better off with another $250 million in cuts to our school systems? I don't think so."
Specifically, Proposition 103 would raise income taxes by approximately $180 for a family making $70,000 per year; the state sales tax would increase by 10 cents per $100. The tax increases would sunset after five years. In essence, the measure raises the tax levels to where they were in 1999, according to supporters.
"People ask, why just five years if this is such a good thing? Why not do it permanently," Hedges said. "Well, we don't want anyone to stop the bigger and more important debate about what we do to fix school funding."