Post Independent opinion: Vote yes on school districts’ mill levy override questions
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
There’s no question, these are tough times to ask for a tax increase. But all three area school districts are doing just that, as are districts all over Colorado.
Property values have plummeted, and many people have been looking forward to paying lower property taxes in 2012. And as the economy continues to struggle, few taxpayers can say they have extra money lying around.
But the poor economy, prompting millions of dollars in state education funding cuts over the past three years, is precisely why the districts themselves need more money.
School districts have already taken painful budget cuts and tightened their belts. Budget projections now point to more millions in cuts coming in 2012. Our school districts have sliced away plenty, but a modest local mill levy tax increase will offset next year’s inevitable cuts.
So we recommend a yes vote on each of the three proposed mill levy increases put forth by Roaring Fork School District Re-1, Garfield School District Re-2 and Garfield District No. 16.
These mill levies will cost residential taxpayers $18 for Re-2, $28 for District 16 and $36 for Re-1 per $100,000 of assessed value.
As taxpayers ourselves, we empathize with the reluctance to pay more taxes.
We know these decisions to ask for overrides weren’t made lightly. School boards are well aware of the state of the economy. But the districts are at the end of their ropes. They have been making deep cuts, and if they tighten their belts any further their eyes may pop out.
Mill levy proceeds will be maintaining the basics, such as not closing schools, laying off more teachers or staff, and buying up-to-date textbooks.
Re-1 and Re-2 are taking just this approach. The districts are asking for the mill levy to hold their current level of service, not to return to any pie-in-the-sky perfect educational world.
District 16’s request includes $1.2 million for the general fund and a smart $3 million for energy efficiency improvements. The district will recoup that investment in immediate cost savings, and that part of the override sunsets in three years.
We offer a strong note of caution with this endorsement. The districts must be very careful with expenditures, as the public will be keeping a close eye on where this money is going. We don’t want to see any $50,000 bonuses.
And while the districts have expressed the desire to retain and attract quality teachers, this is not a good time to offer raises when most of those coughing up the money have not seen a raise themselves for years.
The districts need to maintain the good will of the voters through prudent use of these tax dollars, as we fear that further state budget cuts will force them to ask voters for another mill levy increase in the future.
The districts are not asking for money for extravagant expenses. They just want to give children an excellent education. We encourage a yes vote on all three mill levy overrides.
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