Area school districts, state eye education funding questions | AspenTimes.com

Area school districts, state eye education funding questions

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Area voters could see two questions on the November ballot related to increasing funding for education: one aimed at restoring state funding for both K-12 and higher education, and the other targeting local school needs.

The Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 school districts are both in the process of deciding whether to proceed with mill levy override questions this fall.

The Re-1 school board is set to decide at its meeting later today whether to reserve a spot on the November ballot, the details of which would have to be determined over the next month.

“The board will need to take official action at this meeting if we are to be on the ballot for this year,” Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said. “After that, we will have to figure out how much to ask for and what it would be used for.”

A discussion and action on the mill levy override proposal is on the agenda for the Re-1 board’s regular meeting, beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the district office in Glenwood Springs.

The local property tax questions would be aimed at backfilling at least some of the funding lost due to the state’s cuts in per-pupil funding over the past two years. In the case of Re-1 schools, the district has had to adjust for a $3.5 million reduction in state funding since 2009.

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At the same time, a statewide campaign is nearing its Aug. 1 deadline to turn in the required 86,000 valid petition signatures to put Initiative 25 on the ballot this fall.

The measure asks for a five-year increase to Colorado’s income tax rate, returning it to the 1999 rate of 5 percent from the current rate of 4.63 percent. It also seeks a 0.1 percent increase in the state sales tax, from 2.9 percent to 3 percent.

The new revenue, estimated to add up to $3 billion over five years, would bring added funds to preschool, K-12 and higher education in the state. It is designed to prevent further cuts in education funding in the state, which are expected to continue without increasing revenues in some way.

“It just stops the bleeding, and is an alternative to more cuts,” said Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, which is supporting the Initiative 25 campaign.

“The expense side is certainly a part of it,” said state Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who is also supporting the measure. “But we also have to look at the revenue side.”

Petition circulators were asked to turn in their petitions by Wednesday, and the statewide effort was on track to reach the required number of signatures as of last count, according to campaign organizers.

Dave Munk of Carbondale was among the local petition circulators. He said he received a pretty strong response from the people he approached about signing the petition.

“It’s important to get this dialogue going on a statewide basis during an election about what is the value of a good education for our state and for our community,” he said. “That’s what I want to see discussed come fall, and that’s why I got involved.”

The fact that there’s likely to be a state question regarding education funding does play into the local decision about a mill levy override, Haptonstall said.

“We will need to discuss how that impacts the amount we should ask for in a local question,” she said. “One thing that’s not clear on the state question is how much would go to K-12 and how much to higher education.”

jstroud@postindependent.com