Mill levy overrides heading for the ballots
The Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 school boards both agreed in separate meetings Monday to ask their respective voters this November for extra funding from a mill levy override to make up for recent losses in state funding.
The Re-1 board, meeting in Glenwood Springs, voted 4-0 affirming its earlier decision to seek an additional $4.8 million annually through a property tax override. That amount was agreed to at an Aug. 10 planning meeting.
It would help make up for $5.2 million in lost state per-pupil funding over the past three years for schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, which came as a result of the state’s own budget shortfalls.
As a result, the school district has been forced to significantly slash expenses, including salary cuts for teachers, administrators and staff, an ongoing wage freeze, and a reduction of 80 full- and part-time staff positions. Among the staff cuts were 15 teaching positions.
“We’ve had $5.2 million in cuts, and we’re asking for $4.8 million, so obviously we aren’t going to get some of that back,” Re-1 school board president Bob Johnson said after the Monday meeting. “I believe that shows a due diligence to do our part to cut where we can.”
At the same time, the district aims to mitigate current and future state budget cuts with the mill levy override. The money raised would be intended “to provide a high quality education that helps prepare students for life after high school,” according to the ballot language approved by the board on Monday.
Specifically, according to the ballot question, the funds would be prioritized so as to:
• Preserve small class sizes
• Attract and retain quality staff
• Provide quality texts, technology and other learning materials
• Preserve a safe learning environment for kids
A districtwide campaign committee, including community groups in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, is being organized to steer the mill levy override campaign.
Meanwhile, the Re-2 school district, which includes schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, had not identified how much it would ask voters for until its Monday meeting.
The Re-2 board voted unanimously to place a question on the Nov. 1 ballot asking for a $3 million mill levy override.
As in Re-1, the additional property taxes would help cover a deficit of about the same amount that resulted from state budget cuts. This year alone, Re-2 had to cut nearly $1.8 million from its budget.
The proposed increase for Re-2 taxpayers would be approximately $18 per $100,000 of assessed valuation on residential property, according to Re-2 Finance Director Christine Hamrick. Commercial property owners would pay an additional $63 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, she said.
– John Gardner, editor of The Citizen Telegram, contributed to this report.
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