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School Finance 101

Most people treat school finance like a complicated trigonometry problem: They look at it, maybe study it, but surely don’t understand it.Plenty of information about school finance is available, and though parents are interested in understanding it, few people have time or patience to sift through the material.Every year Basalt Elementary parent Conchita Ramirez receives a booklet of information from the Roaring Fork School District. Ramirez remembers seeing a section about TABOR, Amendment 23 and Gallagher in the booklet, but she’s never read further than the heading.When asked if she wants to know about the laws, Ramirez eagerly nods her head.”I can answer a lot of questions, but it would be great if I knew the answers to questions about that, too,” said Ramirez, who also works in the office at Basalt Elementary.Ramirez often relies on her husband – who’s more knowledgeable about tax laws – to explain election issues such as bonds and mill levy overrides.Part of the reason Ramirez hasn’t delved into school finance is that it’s extremely complicated and boring. Ramirez isn’t alone in her sentiments. At night she teaches an English-as-a-second-language class for parents in the Re-1 school district. The parents frequently ask Ramirez questions about taxes.Where does all the money go? Who spends it? Where does it come from? “The booklets we get are in English and Spanish, so there’s no excuse for not knowing,” Ramirez said. “It’s just hard to understand.” Even people deeply enmeshed in school finance have trouble getting their arms around all of the laws, said Shannon Pelland, finance director for Re-1, and Christine Hamrick, director of finance for Garfield School District Re-2. Re-1 will ask voters in November to approve a $86 million bond and $1.8 million mill levy override. Re-2 will ask for a $2.7 million mill levy override.The outcome of the election will affect 5,050 students in Roaring Fork School District Re-1 and 3,671 students in Garfield School District Re-2.So, welcome to our class, “School Finance 101.” Understanding school finance doesn’t have to be as hard as that complicated trig problem. School FinanceThe Post Independent will run a three-part series to help voters understand the upcoming bond and mill levy overrides. The series schedule is as follows:Today: Explanation of education financePart 2: Where the money will go if the bond is passed, description of current conditions in some Re-1 schools and pros and cons to the bond and mill levy according to community members.Part 3: A history of bonds and mill levy overrides that have been on the ballot. This will include professional analysis as to why bonds and mills pass or fail.Part 3: A history of bonds and mill levy overrides that have been on the ballot. This will include professional analysis as to why bonds and mills pass or fail.


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