Voters reject 3C ballot initiative for Re-2
The Citizen Telegram
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – The horizon isn’t any brighter for students and teachers of Garfield School District Re-2 as voters shot down the proposed $3 million mill levy override 2,832 to 1,673 in the mail-in election that ended Tuesday.
With 63 percent voting against the ballot initiative to 37 percent supporting, the school district saw its hopes of a financial lifeline from taxpayers drift away.
“It’s disappointing,” said Re-2 School Board President Jay Rickstrew. “That is all I can really say about it.”
The $3 million mill levy would have helped backfill the funding deficit the district has dealt with over the past two school years.
In the last two years the district has cut 23 positions, a combination of teaching, administration and para-professional staff. The mill levy increase would have helped maintain current teaching staff levels, school programs and district buildings.
“The board will have a lot of work to do to maintain the level of services we’ve had in the past with less money,” Rickstrew said.
Re-2 Superintendent Susan Birdsey was saddened by the news but said ultimately it was up to the voters.
“I’m sad for our students, staff and families of Re-2,” she said. “The board asked us to go to voters, and that is what we did.”
No decisions have been made, but Birdsey anticipates more difficult decisions as the district faces further state funding cuts next year.
“It’s going to take a lot of heart-felt conversations with the community to see how we can provide the same level of programs for the students,” she said.
Opponents of the tax increase argued that raising taxes may slow Colorado’s economic recovery because people are already dealing with stagnant incomes, a weak housing market and rising gas and food prices. Opponents argued also that raising taxes now may result in less consumer spending and business investment, which may further weaken the economy.
“We were cautiously optimistic, but we were asking for community support in a tough economic climate,” Birdsey said.
This mill levy proposal didn’t include an expiration date, unlike some tax proposals tied to funding specific projects for a specified time. However, the school board could have rescinded the levy if, in the future, the state was able to restore its contribution to the district’s budget.
Rickstrew said he was unsure if that was a factor in the defeat.
“I don’t know if that would have made the decision or not. I think including one may have helped, but it’s hard to say,” Rickstrew said.
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