More property taxes, but less state funding for downvalley schools
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 will take in more property taxes next year but will not see the same budget windfall as some special districts, due to state school finance laws.
Re-1 recently certified its 2010 general fund mill levy, or taxing rate, at 21.759 mills, same as this year. The district includes schools in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
A 32.5 percent increase in assessed property valuation in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, based on 2008 values, will result in that same rate generating about $7.6 million more in property taxes, district-wide, than the school district took in this year.
But the way public K-12 school finance works, the state of Colorado will in turn reduce its amount of funding to Re-1 schools by the same amount as local property taxes increase, explained Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Shannon Pelland.
“By law we can’t lower our [general fund] mill levy, so we’re frozen at the same rate as this year,” she said.
Other special districts locally and around the state that maintained their mill levy at the same rate, and which do not rely on state funding, could see a windfall in tax revenue. That extra revenue, however, will likely go away over the next two years when property valuations are expected to plummet.
“We don’t end up receiving more money in the end because the state adjusts its funding,” Pelland said of the school district.
Other smaller mill levies for Re-1 will decrease next year, including the district’s voter-approved mill levy override that helps teacher salaries. That rate will drop from 3.742 mills this year to 2.823 mills in 2010, but will still generate $4 million.
Likewise, the district’s bond issue mill levy to pay principal and interest on the recent new school facilities will also decrease from 8.263 mills to 6.293 mills, but generate roughly the same amount of revenue, $8.9 million.
“Both of those mill levies are adjusted because of the way the ballot questions were worded,” Pelland said.
With the expected decrease in property values in 2011 (based on 2010 values), Re-1 and other area school districts are expecting a drop in valuations used for taxing purposes.
“So, on the flip side, if our property taxes go down, the state would have to backfill that amount [of lost revenue],” Pelland said.
But with the state budget crisis, there’s a concern that the state may not be able to do that in coming years.
Re-1 is already bracing for a possible cut in state funding next year of as much as 6 to 8 percent, which would mean about $2.6 million less for the local school district.
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.