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Reasons to vote no on 3A and 3B
We don’t need a permanent tax increase; we need the economy to get better. Increasing taxes and adding debt will not help the economy get better. Moreover, “planned budget cuts” are not the same as actual spending cuts. Parents — why do you think they are threatening to increase your child’s class size? Or cut Outdoor Lab? Or have actually implemented furlough days … one on a Wednesday?  
We don’t need a permanent tax increase or bond money because the Colorado Legislative Council budget forecast shows that nearly $700 million in additional funding will be transferred to the state K-12 education fund for 2012-2014. The commissioner may have told the district not to count on additional funds and to budget for flat funding, but does anyone think our legislators won’t allocate that money to K-12 funding? 
Jeffco teachers may be experiencing a pay freeze, but they are actually working fewer days (furlough days); they are receiving larger contributions to their retirement plans (PERA); and prior to the economy weakening, salaries and benefits increased at twice the inflation rate (even more for administrator salaries and benefits). Everyone has seen their medical costs and living costs increase, yet the community is asked to “recession-proof” the school district.
If cuts have been “devastating,” it is because the school board made choices that impacted classrooms. Cuts in actual general fund spending between 2009-10 and 2010-11 (the last year for which we have actual spending figures — not just budget numbers) were 4 percent. Really?  Haven’t we all had to cut 4 percent from our spending?
All the tax monies go into one bucket — more or less — if the district has decided to budget for PERA instead of teacher librarians or instrumental music, that is a choice. You can decide which pocket the money comes out of, but $22 million additional will go toward PERA and not the classroom. Senate Bill 1 did not increase the contribution rates for employees of school districts, but it did leave it to local boards to negotiate in lieu of raises.
If Jeffco Public Schools were so fiscally responsible, then why did it not use “strategically built reserves” to keep students warm, safe and dry, rather than increase ongoing expenses at unsustainable rates? It is not prudent to borrow for 20 years to conduct routine maintenance repairs.
3A and 3B will do nothing to recruit highly qualified teachers (you need a system that actually distinguishes those that are highly qualified and highly effective first). The money does not go toward improving student achievement. Please tell Jeffco Public Schools you will no longer support the status quo — Jeffco needs a bold, new plan that puts students first. Vote No on 3A and 3B.
Sheila Atwell
director
Jeffco Students First

Jeffco Library considering variety of ideas to address budget puzzle
Editor:
In response to your Oct. 22 article on the Jeffco Public Library, I’d like to clarify actions taken at the Oct. 18 meeting of the library board of trustees. In response to a new set of budget challenges, the library board asked staff to come back with a list of suggestions to help create a sustainable budget and secure the long-term future of the library. While investigating a district initiative was discussed, it was only one of the ideas presented by the staff. The full list of potential alternatives included the following:
• Seeking grants for capital needs.
• Asking the county to help construct a new library along the eastern corridor.
• Asking the county to help construct a new library in South Jeffco.
• Negotiating with the county for an agreement that locks in a 3.5-mill levy and a stable and fair method of allocating direct and indirect costs.
• Investigating options to establish a voter-approved mill levy at 3.5 mills.
• Investigating the cost/benefit of becoming an independent library district with a dedicated mill levy at 3.5 mills by resolution.
• Investigating the cost/benefit of becoming an independent library district with a dedicated mill levy at 3.5 mills via a ballot issue.
• Investigating the cost/benefit of becoming an independent district with a dedicated mill levy sufficient to keep pace with inflation and support the restoration and/or expansion of service levels.
The board also requested that we continue to look for ways to streamline expenses and maximize efficiencies in library operations. As always, we will continue to look for innovative ways to maximize stakeholder value.
It’s no secret that the library is facing some long-term financial challenges. Since 2008, our revenue has dropped by approximately $3.5 million, and we’ve responded by making significant reductions in staffing, administrative costs and service levels. In 2012, we believed we had a sustainable budget, with operating expenses back in line with revenues. However, property tax and other revenues for 2012 and 2013 are coming in below expectations, while some costs — including some that are outside of the Library’s control — are increasing. So, our challenges continue.
 The library’s senior management team has worked hard to meet these challenges, by delaying the hiring of some positions, making further cuts to staffing, reducing our materials budget and cutting administrative costs. However, even with these reductions, we are still facing a budget deficit of about $240,000 in 2012 and about $600,000 in 2013. We believe that additional budget reductions would likely cause further reductions in library hours and/or services, and there is little appetite for reducing services in the face of ongoing, growing demand.
 Consequently, the library board has authorized us to dip into the library’s fund balance to help us close the gap for 2012 and 2013, while we evaluate options to create a sustainable budget for 2014 and beyond.
 We have significant work ahead of us to evaluate our list of options and gather the data we need to make good decisions about the library’s future. It is reckless and premature to suggest that we are “resurrecting a district campaign.”
 We’ll do our best to keep the community informed of our progress, and we ask for patience and forbearance as we do this important work.
Pam Nissler
executive director
Jefferson County Public Library

 

Where is Justin Everett?
Editor:
I found Vicky Gits’ article in last Wednesday’s Courier, “Justin’s Hat Back in the Ring,” troubling. I signed up for Justin’s e-mail list on May 26. Since then, I received two e-mails from his campaign: The first was an invitation to the primary debate, which I attended; the second was for his Get Out the Vote effort sent on Oct. 5 for a canvassing event the very next day.
The only other times I’ve heard from him have been requests for donations on his Facebook page. His calendar on his website is empty, he didn’t attend any of the many candidate forums in Jeffco, any of the back-to-school nights, and I didn’t see him at the Republican booth at the Summerset Festival.
As a young adult who is genuinely interested in hearing from the candidates, it has been tough to find Justin at community events. From the article, it sounds like he’s been working hard and getting out and talking to voters, but what specifically has he been doing? Where has he been? I am hesitant to lend any credibility to his claims of the amount of time and effort he is putting into his campaign and of having contacted over 6,000 voters.
John Buckner
Littleton

Parker is putting in hard work
Editor:
I have walked with Mary Parker regularly since she began walking six days a week in early March to meet voters in HD 22. Mary continued walking through the heat this summer and has now visited close to 20,000 doors and spoken to more than 6,000 people. She’s been to each precinct at least twice, particularly seeking out Republican and unaffiliated voters because she needs to know their concerns and wants to represent all of us.
Not one single person we met has said Justin Everett came to their door. Actually, many said they would vote for Mary specifically because she is the only candidate who has taken the time to visit their home. For Justin to say that he has talked to 6,200 people during this campaign is ludicrous! I know the effort and time involved, and he hasn’t made that effort or taken the time. I resent his claim because I’m proud of Mary’s amazing effort to reach out, not only at doors, but also at three town hall meetings and numerous events and forums.
Mary’s work ethic and honesty are evident to all who have met her.
Dee Buckley
South Jeffco

League of Women Voters supports 3A and 3B
Editor:
The Jefferson County League of Women Voters supports Jefferson County School District ballot issue 3A, to increase the mill levy to maintain academic excellence in our schools, and 3B, which would fund upgrades to the district’s buildings.
Drastic budget cuts in K-12 education at the state level have reduced funding by $450 per student from 2008 to 2011. Using rainy-day funds and numerous belt-tightening measures, the district has been able to keep staff reductions to a minimum in the classroom. In so doing, we believe the administration has met the league’s standard of operating efficiently and with sound financial practices.
But with more significant cuts in state funding proposed for the future, it is evident to us that our schools need additional financial help from our community to maintain quality education. The mill-levy override would help maintain the district’s tradition of academic excellence.
Our league also supports the school district bond proposal 3B. The league supports adequate facilities so that our students can learn in a safe and healthy environment. Financial prudence mandates that we maintain our investment in our schools. 3B is a necessary expense for the residents of our county.
Together, 3A and 3B will cost the average homeowner approximately $36 annually. We can limit the impact of more budget cuts and resulting staff reductions by passing 3A, and we can maintain our investment in the district’s buildings with 3B. Therefore, the Jefferson County League of Women Voters strongly supports ballot issues 3A and 3B.
Ann Taylor Roux
president
Jeffco League of Women Voters

3A and 3B are not needed
Editor:
I am writing this as a parent, grandparent and concerned citizen to explain why it is essential to vote no on 3A and 3B.
The September state economic forecast says $678 million additional dollars will be put in the K-12 fund over the next two years. Jeffco receives approximately 9 percent of the state K-12 fund, or about $60 million of those additional dollars, which more than covers the proposed cuts. As the economy gets better, education gets more money.
Since 2005 we have seen a drop in Jeffco school enrollment by 481 students. However  there has been an increase in staff of 402 positions, 388 of those administrative. If any cutting is to be done, it is those administrative positions that should be cut first. Not teaching positions. There are alternatives to cutting teachers and programs.
Ballot issue 3A will result in a 15 percent increase in the Jeffco mill levy, or $44.36 a year per 100,000.00 assessed value.
Ballot issue 3B asks us to go into debt to pay for routine maintenance items. This money is not for science labs or new buildings. Paying for routine maintenance items with 20 years of debt is not a good plan.
As the economy improves and housing values increase, the amount of money the school district receives will increase. And as the state economy gets better, there will be more money for education.
 The Public Employees Retirement Association contribution is estimated to rise more than $22 million in the next couple of years. While employee contributions remain at 8 percent, taxpayer contributions will increase from 15.65 percent to 20.15 percent. The current general fund budget has taxpayers picking up all of those PERA increases but not allocating money to instrumental music, teacher Librarians, or outdoor lab schools. Those priorities don’t seem to me to put students first.
The system needs fundamental structural change. Neither 3A or 3B will fund a new pay structure. Not one penny will go to raise the amount we pay our newest teachers. Not one penny builds new science labs or adds options for our students.
Every four to six years, Jeffco Schools asks taxpayers for just a little bit more. What Jeffco schools really  need is a bold new plan — not the status quo. Our children deserve better than what we have been giving them. This is why we must all vote no on 3A and 3B.om
Maureen Sielaff
Jefferson County