So we are all about to get our blue books for our local elections in the mail. The blue books are most folks’ first peak at the actual language that we will soon see on our ballots that follow in the mail shortly after. If you’ve ever put together a piece of Ikea furniture, you appreciate the sense of exasperation that similarly comes from trying to decipher a ballot question.
So we thought we’d break out our government Rosetta Stone and translate what you’ll be seeing into human speak. Since there are actually two ballot questions that are critical to Eagle County Schools, we’ll pace ourselves and do one at a time. So first, Ballot Issue 3A: the Mill Levy (actual ballot language presented as you’ll see it on the ballot, IN SHOUTY CAPS…we’re not yelling at you).
SHALL EAGLE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT RE50J TAXES BE INCREASED $8 MILLION IN TAX COLLECTION YEAR 2017 AND ANNUALLY THEREAFTER, AS ADJUSTED FOR THE PERCENTAGE CHANGE IN THE DENVER-BOULDER CONSUMER PRICE INDEX, UNTIL DECEMBER 31, 2023…
This is a tax increase (more on that below), valued at $8million across the entire school district. It starts next year and may increase at the actual measured rate of inflation each year until the year 2023, when it…ends. Gosh, that feels almost anticlimactic. You may have heard somewhere else that the tax would go on forever, but it turns out that source was employing an infinite improbability drive in order to make 7=forever. Unfortunately even this tax increase won’t buy the district one of those.
…TO FUND THE FOLLOWING EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES:
· RECRUITING AND RETAINING QUALITY TEACHERS AND STAFF;
· REDUCING CLASS SIZE;
· RESTORING PROGRAMS LIKE ART, MUSIC, TECHNOLOGY, COUNSELING AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION;
Really those second bullets flow from the first; more teachers equals smaller class sizes and restoring programs that got axed because we lost over 90 teachers in the Great Recession. Now you may have also heard that the district is not guaranteeing teachers pay increases because it doesn’t say so in the ballot. To the extent that this language actually means the district will instead be kidnapping teachers and shackling them to their desk, we must concede that possibility. But it turns out the board of education was good enough to rescue us from Absurdville with a board resolution in June, cleverly titled Resolution 06-01-13. Said resolution doth state:
“Be it resolved that if the district be successful in passing Mill Levy Override in the November 2016 election, fully 50% of the proceeds from the Mill Levy will be used to increase staff compensation in order to attract and retain quality teachers and staff. In addition, approximately 22% of these funds will be used toward restoration of staffing in buildings in order to address issues such as, class size, planning time and additional PE, Art, Music and counseling services for students.”
· REPLACING OUTDATED TEXTBOOKS AND CLASSROOM LEARNING MATERIALS;
You got this, right?
· EXPANDING HOURS AND SERVICES IN THE DISTRICT’S PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS;
Ok, hold up on this one, or it could just slip right by you. This may look small, but it’s a really big deal. Besides the well-documented and overwhelming benefit of early childhood education, merely extending the hours of preschool can have a huge economic impact. Parents that have to pick up kids at 3pm are not able to work past 3pm. That hurts working parents and their employers.
· FUNDING ONGOING NECESSARY MAINTENANCE OF SCHOOL FACILITIES AND FUNDING TRANSPORTATION;
You know how you change the oil in your car, without the slightest indication of anything wrong with the oil or your engine? That’s called maintenance. Know what happens when you don’t change the oil? Right, repairs that cost more than scheduled oil changes. Well the school district has not had the money for that regular maintenance for years, so they’ve been in break/fix mode. Luckily the engine hasn’t blown up…yet.
And transportation is also one of those things that got cut. And that can affect families’ flexibility and therefore their economic productivity.
PROVIDED, HOWEVER, THAT NO REVENUE SHALL BE UTILIZED FOR SENIOR DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION,
This money stays in the classroom, operations, and in the pockets of teachers and other district staff (custodians, smiley front desk people, etc.)
AND PROVIDED FURTHER THAT ALL SUCH REVENUES WILL BE MONITORED BY A CITIZEN’S OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE;
It doesn’t matter how much detail you put in ballot language, there are specific expenses you just can’t foresee (even with an infinite improbability drive!). So this measure includes a noble (unpaid!) committee of volunteer citizens to help the district make those spending decisions and to keep everything above board and everyone accountable.
SUCH TAX INCREASE TO BE AN ADDITIONAL PROPERTY TAX MILL LEVY PURSUANT TO, AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 22-54-108, C.R.S., AS IT CURRENTLY EXISTS OR MAY BE AMENDED, IN EXCESS OF THE LEVY AUTHORIZED FOR THE DISTRICT’S GENERAL FUND;
OK, stay with us here: more tax talk. This is a mill levy, which is a percentage of the value of real estate. So it’s a property tax that conforms with state law as it’s written today (those rascally politicians can’t change that law and undo what we voters have authorized). And we voters are authorizing the school district to collect this tax in addition to what it gets now.
AND SHALL THE DISTRICT BE AUTHORIZED TO COLLECT, RETAIN AND SPEND ALL REVENUES FROM SUCH TAXES AND THE EARNINGS FROM THE INVESTMENT OF SUCH REVENUES AS A VOTER APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE UNDER ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION?
And furthermore (God bless lawyers), the school district can actually collect that money and spend it as we hereby say they can (just in case that wasn’t clear).
Simple, right? Well, if not, maybe stick this in your ear, and stay tuned for next week’s wickedly simple breakdown of Ballot Issue 3B.