Re-2 IDs priorities after property tax increase |

Re-2 IDs priorities after property tax increase

With 2017 underway, the Garfield Re-2 School District met for quarterly budget talks last week, with the school board identifying “big financial rocks” for 2017-2018.

The board identified salaries, WHHW (What How, How What) and the teaching and learning cycle, and becoming deficit neutral by 2019-2020 as those big challenges for the school district.

Though Garfield Re-2 remains competitive for new teachers’ salaries, the school district falls behind in salary competitiveness after teachers’ first year. Board members would like to see the school district pay teachers more for experience, which would help with teacher retention. The board hopes to figure out what the salary schedules and experience credit would look like to become more competitive.

What How, How What, and it has become a teaching technique that the school board would like to implement throughout the district. Teachers ask themselves what they teach, how they best teach, how they know how to assess students, and what if. The teaching method looks to find the best practices to teach each student.

The goal of becoming deficit neutral is something the board will continue to work toward to mitigate the impact on taxpayers. This comes weeks after it was announced that the school district’s property tax is set for its first increase in nearly a decade.

The school district must pay back bonds passed in the early 2000s that helped build Highland Elementary, Graham Mesa Elementary, Coal Ridge High School, Cactus Valley Elementary and Riverside Middle, and mill levies that allowed Garfield Re-2 to add teachers and staff.

To pay back the bonds that built the schools will cost the taxpayers between $8.8 million and $9.1 million per year until fiscal 2029. That money will be collected through the property tax, and because the school district’s assessed valuation has declined 40 percent from 2015-16 ($1.2 billion to $736 million), property taxes must be increased to offset the decline due to the region’s natural gas slump.

Instead of the required levy of 11.99 mills to satisfy the current debt schedule, the board decided to use $2 million in available bond redemption fund balance to reduce the mill levy rate one time to 9.248 mills. Property taxes will increase 27 percent for the coming year and there will likely be an additional increase of 18 percent next year.

Thus property owners living within the Garfield School District Re-2 will see the school district’s line item on their bills increase 27 percent for the coming year rather than 45 percent. This is the equivalent of about $34 per $100,000 of residential property value and $124 per $100,000 of commercial property value.

The school board also discussed looking into changing some aspects of the budget process, including creating a budget change form for any budgetary change over $1,000 and reviewing how the school district uses consultants, grant funding, and fundraisers.

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