A lot to chew on with ballot questions

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Dr. Jason Glass

On Sept. 6, the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education approved the language that will appear on this fall’s ballot for a mill levy override (for ongoing expenses, such as paying teachers and staff and student academic and career/technical programs), as well as a bond question (for school and facility construction and renovation projects).
The mill levy override will appear as question 5A; the bond will be question 5B.
Colorado ballot questions are notoriously long legal statements that include the tax increase amount and other language required under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Amendment.
In Jeffco’s case, our mill levy override and bond ballot questions will include additional language that add some specifics on how the funds would be used, as well as some accountability provisions and restrictions on uses.
For the mill levy override, the ballot question specifies that the tax increase for 2018-19 is $33 million (and increasing with inflation thereafter). The mill levy ballot question also directs that funds be used for the following purposes:
• Expanding programs in science, technology, engineering and math and in career/technical education;
• Attract and retain high quality teachers by ensuring the district is able to be competitive in compensation and benefits for teachers and staff;
• Improving student safety by increasing mental health and counseling professionals to improve student mental health services, including suicide prevention and substance abuse counseling;
• Updating aged and outdated instructional resources such as books, supplies and technology;
• Increasing early education programs.
The mill levy language goes on to state some restrictions and accountability provisions. These are:
• No revenue … will be used for senior district administration;
• The spending … will be reviewed by the citizen’s financial oversight advisory committee;
•The funds are subjected to an annual independent audit.
On the bond side (funds for construction), the ballot question asks if the district’s debt can be increased by $567 million, with total repayment costs of $997 million (or a lesser amount) for the purpose of providing Jeffco students, teachers and staff with a safe learning environment that prepares students for college and the workforce. The ballot language specifies that the bond funds be for these purposes:
• Adding and expanding career/technical education facilities;
• Upgrading safety and security in school buildings;
• Repairing, renovating, equipping or reconstructing school buildings to ensure all schools are safer, efficient and accessible to all students, including those with disabilities;
• Constructing, furnishing, equipping and supporting needed school buildings and classrooms at all types of schools, including schools chartered by the district.
The bond language goes to place these conditions on use of bond funds:
• The funds cannot be used for senior district administration;
• The district will have a preference for hiring local construction contractors;
• The spending of these funds is overseen by the citizens’ Capital Asset Advisory Committee;
• The funds are subject to an annual external audit.
In September, you can expect to receive voter ballot information booklets, which will have the full legal text of the ballot questions, as well as arguments for and against these measures.
In mid-October, you can expect your mail-in ballots to arrive. This year’s ballot will be lengthy with lots of offices and questions appearing, so please take the time to review your ballot closely.
On behalf of all of us with Jeffco Public Schools, we appreciate the opportunity to serve your families and this wonderful community. Ultimately, we look to the citizens of Jeffco to have the final say on school funding.

Dr. Jason Glass is the superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools.