School board finalizes bond issue, property-tax increase questions

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By Sal Christ

The Jeffco school board has finalized ballot language for a $535 million bond issue and a property-tax increase for the Nov. 8 ballot.

“I think that the bond and mill levy are an opportunity for us to take control of our own future,” treasurer Brad Rupert said at last Thursday’s board meeting. “It’s become quite clear that the state legislature, under current constraints, is unable to provide the amount of K-12 funding that’s necessary. … We need to start taking steps to fully fund our schools, in light of that challenge. The mill levy is really a drop in the bucket — it doesn’t even make up for a year of the ‘negative factor.’ ”

Other board members echoed similar sentiments, including Ali Lasell, who said that asking voters for the additional funds are the only way Jeffco Public Schools can be competitive with neighboring districts.

“Our staff and our teachers have done a tremendous job weathering this,” Lasell said. “… But our educators are making 19 percent less than our competitors in other districts. That is not acceptable. We need to right that right now.

“We cannot count on the state right now. When I hear that 50 other districts are going for mills and bonds, I realize it’s not a districtwide issue, but a statewide issue.”

The board unanimously approved ballot language for the bond issue and for a property-tax increase that would generate an additional $33 million annually. The tax hike would go toward improving safety and security in schools, additional hires of mental-health and student-support professionals, and increased “school-based budgets. The bond would pay for renovation, repair or replacement of 110 school buildings; updated technology; and improvements and repairs to the Outdoor Labs.

The resolution cites declining state education funding as a primary factor in seeking the bond issue and mill-levy override and specifically references a “cumulative $490 million loss of funding for our Jeffco schools since the inception of the negative factor.”

The negative factor refers to state money districts say they were due under funding requirements the state has been unable to meet in recent years.

The ballot language states that the measures will cost homeowners approximately $4.12 per month, or $49.44 per year, for every $100,000 of home value. The owner of a home valued at $300,000, for example, would pay about $148 more per year in property taxes. Commercial property owners would pay an additional $180 per year per $100,000 of property value.

Jeffco Public Schools is one of several school districts around the state with a bond issue and/or property-tax increase on the November ballot; Denver Public Schools, for example, approved in June putting a $628 million bond and mill-levy package on the ballot, and Aurora Public Schools is seeking approval of a $300 million bond.

Contact reporter Sal Christ at sal@evergreenco.com or at 303-350-1035.