District 16 pursues 3-in-1 mill levy question
PARACHUTE, Colorado – It will be all-or-nothing as far as the Garfield District 16 school board’s proposal to voters goes. This November’s ballot will ask voters for extra local property taxes to make up for state budget cuts and provide funding for some other things.
The school board decided at an Aug. 22 meeting to ask district voters in the Nov. 1 election for a mill levy override targeting three specific areas.
The override would provide an extra $1.2 million per year in property tax dollars for general fund purposes. That’s about the same amount of money the district has lost in state per-pupil funding in recent years, according to District 16 Director of Business Services Rose Belden.
In addition, the district, which serves Parachute and Battlement Mesa, will be asking for up to $583,103 annually to pay for a full-day kindergarten program. The program is now offered on a tuition basis.
A three-year, $3 million override to pay for energy efficiency improvements and other cost-saving upgrades at school buildings, including L.W. St. John Elementary School, is also being sought in the same ballot question.
“That portion would sunset after three years,” Belden explained.
The school board discussed whether to pose the questions separately or in a single ballot question, she said.
“The idea in doing separate questions is that people might agree with some of it but not all of it,” Belden said. “But we really do need every part of it, and the board thought it would be better to try to sell it in a package, that these are things we truly need.”
“We’re not asking for more than we need,” school board president Sarah Del Orona said. “This is what we need from the community, and we don’t believe we’re asking for too much.”
Del Orona said that, currently, about 40 percent of the district’s kindergarten parents take advantage of the full-day program at a cost of $90 per month.
“There is massive amounts of data that supports the importance of early childhood development, and targeting kindergarten students with the tools they will need to be successful later on in their education,” Del Orona said.
As part of the general fund override, the district also proposes to do away with student fees for things like art and music, as well as athletics, field trips and other activities.
“That’s our way of giving back in some way for raising taxes,” Del Orona said.
The building technology funds will be used to develop a long-term program that can be paid back through cost savings later on, in areas such as energy and water use, she said.
According to Belden, overall, the combined mill levy increase would cost taxpayers in the district an additional $27.81 per year for every $100,000 in assessed residential value. Of that, $17.47 in building technology taxes would go away after the three-year term is up.
The tax increase would cost commercial property owners an additional $101.32 per year for every $100,000 in assessed value. Of that, $63.66 associated with the building technology override would sunset after three years, Belden said.
The decision by the District 16 board means all three public school districts serving Garfield County will be asking voters for a tax increase this fall.
Roaring Fork District Re-1, which includes schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, is seeking approval for a $4.8 million general fund override to make up for losses in state funding.
Likewise, Garfield District Re-2, including schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, is asking for a $3 million general fund override.
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