RIFLE — The Garfield District Re-2 school board is not taking a formal position on the state education tax proposal, known as Amendment 66, that goes before Colorado voters in the Nov. 5 mail ballot election.
Informally, though, board members indicated at an Oct. 8 school board meeting that they personally support the measure, said school board president Chris Pearson.
“It was a late addition to our agenda, and we felt we needed to give more notice if we were to take a position as a board,” Pearson said after the meeting. “We chose not to take a stand at this particular time.”
Amendment 66 would increase the state income tax to provide an additional $950 million annually for K-12 education in the state.
In addition to increasing the state’s per-pupil funding for school districts, and making it more equitable across the board, the measure proposes to fund other provisions of SB 213 that was passed by the state Legislature earlier this year.
Included would be new funding to support full-day, tuition-free kindergarten for all and expanded pre-school programming, as well as support for gifted and talented, special education and ELL programs.
The Re-2 school board discussed the proposal twice this past week, during an Oct. 7 work session and again during its regular Oct. 8 board meeting in Rifle.
Ballots for the Nov. 5 election are to be mailed to voters this coming week. Included on this fall’s ballot along with the education funding question is a proposal to tax retail marijuana sales in the state (Proposition AA) and a handful of local tax issues.
Also on the ballot for Garfield Re-2 voters will be a three-way race for the Rifle-area school board seat between incumbent Mickie Hosack and challengers Addy Marantino and Shirley Parks.
In September, the neighboring Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board voted 3-2 to formally endorse Amendment 66.
Supporters say the measure is a big step toward improving the way the state funds K-12 education, while critics say the new tax is not needed given the state’s improving short-term budget situation, and that it could stifle the economic recovery.
Dissenting Roaring Fork Re-1 board members also said they worry that the measure leaves it up to local school districts to fully fund some of the provisions through local tax increases. They also noted that the state has until 2017 to find a way to fund SB 213.
Garfield Re-2 officials were instrumental in prompting a change to the bill when it was being debated in the legislature last spring.
An earlier version of the bill would have required districts that have a larger untapped property tax base, such as Re-2, to go to their voters to try to pass a local mill levy override, or face funding cuts from the state.
Re-2 Superintendent Susan Birdsey said Amendment 66 help the district pay for several unfunded state mandates, including the new educator effectiveness law, revised academic standards and new student assessments.
According to the minutes of the Oct. 8 school board meeting, Hosack suggested that, if Amendment 66 passes, it would help Re-2 avoid having to dip into reserves to make up for the $5 million in state funding cuts over the past five years.
The district is currently deficit spending about $1 million per year, and at some point that will no longer be an option, Hosack noted.
Amendment 66 would increase the state’s income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent on the first $75,000 of personal income, and to 5.9 percent above that income level.
The measure also aims to clean up some of the conflicts between three other state constitutional amendments, TABOR, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23, which have impacted education funding.
“We chose not to take a stand at this particular time.”
Re-2 school board president