Post Independent opinion: Education too critical not to consider tax increase options alongside budget cuts
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As local school districts face the prospect of potentially deep budget cuts next year, due to a proposed $232 million reduction in state funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education, all options need to be on the table.
That includes giving serious thought to local mill levy overrides and temporary reserve fund spending to keep the cuts in our local schools from being too severe.
Education is the very cornerstone of our economy, and our pathway to economic recovery. It’s the most important economic development program we can fund. Today’s students are tomorrow’s doctors, business professionals, teachers and civic leaders.
It’s an investment for which the return is a strong economy, from which we all benefit, and that ensures the fiscal health of our communities, the state of Colorado, the nation and the world.
The kinds of cuts being proposed for next year, between $3 million and $4 million for both Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 schools, are not unmanageable.
It will take a combination of cuts in spending across the board and tapping available reserve funds, which are there just for these types of fiscal emergencies, to get us over the hump until better solutions can be found.
We should take a hard look at spending for any programs that are not directly related to learning, including such things as athletics and student transportation, difficult as that may be.
And we must closely evaluate the cost of achieving academic goals and meeting education standards, and how things might be done more efficiently with the likelihood of fewer teachers and less administrative and staff support.
But with the state’s seeming unwillingness to look at new revenue options at this time, that means it’s up to us locally to do what we can to take care of our local education budget shortfalls.
Both Re-1 and Re-2 are considering mill levy override proposals for voters to consider, perhaps as soon as next fall. School districts in Colorado have the ability to ask local voters for up to 25 percent in additional revenues from local property taxes, beyond what they receive via the state’s school-finance formula.
One thing for local school district officials to consider and explore from a legal standpoint is whether a mill levy override can be structured so it could be rolled back at such time that state funding is restored to reasonable levels. This could be a good compromise.
Going to voters for any tax increase, and especially in tough economic times, is not an easy thing to do. But it’s worth asking for the sake of our children, who are our future.
It’s also critical for all concerned – parents, teachers, those without children in public schools and concerned taxpayers – to get involved at this stage of the discussion when many of these decisions are being formulated.
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