Re-2 must build a school system we can afford |

Re-2 must build a school system we can afford

Nancy Jacobsen

This opinion comes in response to Garfield Re-2 school superintendent Gary Pack’s “rich man, poor man” dilemma.

Superintendent Pack states Colorado school finance regulations will not allow him to take the $2.1 million construction windfall and apply it to his impoverished operating funds.

Was the $39 million construction and renovation bond approved in 2001 deliberately over-inflated by at least 5 percent? As I do not know how the other projects’ budgets came out, the percentage is most likely higher.

I am sure there exists no mechanism to return the overage to the taxpayers. But I strongly urge you to park it in a reserve construction fund, as your predecessor might have. Do you still have the surpluses he left you?

And secondly, did Re-2 plan all along to go to the taxpayers for a mill levy override to fund operating expenses once the bond passed? Was this disclosed to the voters in 2001?

Or did Re-2 just discover after the bond passed that there were no oats to feed the new pony?

Neither scenario supports the appearance of a fiscally responsible government entity.

Re-2 estimates a $34 increase in property taxes for the hypothetical $100,000 home. Your average Re-2 taxpayer will pay at least $100 per year in addition to their current school funding load.

I pulled out my property tax bill and found 53 percent currently goes to schools, Colorado Mountain College included. It will jump to 58 percent if the mill levy override passes.

I will pay about $120 more per year, not the $60 you suggested. Let’s stop calling them property taxes, as they are school taxes!

This rural school district just can’t afford “the highest paid teaching staff on the Western Slope.” I’ll give that honor to Aspen or Vail.

Have you not noticed the long list of foreclosed homes in Garfield County?

Most Re-2 taxpayers have experienced a rough last two years. Your average combined two-income Re-2 household barely equals the income and excellent benefits package of one experienced teacher.

You still didn’t answer why we taxpayers should pay for before- and after-school day care, free rides to school, and security to keep nonmotivated students from assaulting each other and their teachers.

Readers of this paper are reading hearty endorsements of the mill levy override by educators. Excuse my skepticism of their assurances that all needed expenditures are vital for educational and life-long successes of students. Could there be a conflict of interest? These educators’ raises and/or job security depend on taxpayers voting “yes.”

I wish simply throwing money at public education would ensure the educational accomplishments we all would like to see. If that were true, then the students of the wealthiest country in the world would be scholastically smoking students from other countries. This is not the case.

Contrary to what many readers may be thinking by now, I am a huge supporter of quality public education. This includes art, music and athletics.

I chose not to have children. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing the rearing of other people’s children. Parents’ financial responsibilities include pre-school, day care, nutrition, immunizations, transportation to and from school, and basic school supplies.

Parents must instill good manners and motivation to excel in school. If Re-2 wishes to provide any of the pre-listed services, then parents should pay user fees that totally fund those services.

We have witnessed two school districts on the Front Range crash and burn using the “nothing is too good for our district” budget approach.

Voters, let’s make sure Re-2 builds a school system we can afford.

– Nancy Jacobsen of Silt is a seasonal tax preparer and co-owner of a small ranch and a small business.

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