Letter: More bond answers from RFSD | PostIndependent.com

Letter: More bond answers from RFSD

Shannon Pelland
RFSD assistant superintendent

During community presentations about the bond election, consistent questions that have been raised about school finance in Colorado are clarified below:

Since the district receives additional property taxes from increased commercial and residential property values, why aren’t those dollars used to fund facility improvements?

Unfortunately, under the state’s School Finance Act, any increase in local property tax collections resulting from increased assessed values is offset by a corresponding decrease in state funding. In other words, RFSD does not benefit financially from increased assessed values.

Wasn’t marijuana tax supposed to provide money for school construction?

Yes, and it has. However, the first year raised just $17 million for school construction statewide, which was distributed through the State’s BEST program. Despite stiff competition for available funds, Glenwood Springs Elementary School was fortunate to receive a $9.1 million BEST grant (contingent on passage of the bond election in November). With only the first $40 million dedicated to schools, marijuana taxes will do little to address public school facility needs across the Colorado, which are estimated at over $13 billion.

Why doesn’t the district use the additional property taxes from the bond election to pay teachers enough to live in the valley instead of asking constituents to help fund affordable rental housing?

First, bond money can only be used for capital improvements through the Capital Projects Fund. Most operating costs, such as salaries, are paid for through the General Fund. Eighty-three percent of RFSD’s General Fund expenditures are for salaries and benefits. District operating funds are limited by state statute to a formula-driven per pupil amount. The law allows school districts to seek voter approval to exceed this amount by a maximum of 25 percent through a mill levy override. The district is currently at 18 percent. The remaining 7 percent available is not sufficient to provide salary increases adequate to close the gap between wages and local housing costs.

Shannon Pelland

RFSD assistant superintendent

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