Garfield 16 looks to voters for funding
In recent years, school districts across the state have suffered from the so called “negative factor,” an adjustment to the school funding formula that has allowed the Legislature to bypass annual inflation adjustments required by Colorado Amendment 23.
The negative factor, instituted in 2009, was a response to declining tax revenues during the recession.
Now, with the economy on the mend, Garfield County School District 16 is hoping the voters will help bring school funding back to normal.
The district, which serves just over 1,000 students in Parachute, Battlement Mesa and the surrounding area, is going to the voters with a $1.1 million mill levy and a $30 million bond extension. Approval of both items would increase property tax on a $100,000 home by about 66 cents a year, according to Garfield 16 Superintendent Ken Haptonstall.
The mill levy will help make up for the negative factor, while the bond extension will pay for some security and infrastructure upgrades as well as new curriculum resources including textbooks and software.
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Perhaps most importantly, it gives the district a better chance to keep its teachers.
“We’ve lost just about $1.3 million per year over the last five years,” said Haptonstall. “Our staff hasn’t had a raise in that time. We really want to support them in staying.”
Garfield 16 didn’t fare well the last time it went to the voters, but this time officials are working harder to get the word out.
Parachute Fire Chief David Blair is leading the community education effort. He believes strong schools build a strong community.
“When people realize what the negative factor is all about and how it’s impacted the school district, even people who aren’t usually in favor of paying taxes are in support of it,” he said.
Blair and Haptonstall believe that better schools will make for better housing values.
In order to make ends meet, the district has been pulling around $500,000 from its reserve annually. With a little over $2 million left in the reserve, that’s not sustainable. If the measures don’t pass, the district is likely looking at some significant cuts in personnel and programming.
“We just want to make sure that we’re safe and we can pay our bills,” said Haptonstall.
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