Cherry Creek School District's 4A, 4B sail through with conclusive early results

Pair of tax, bond measures to plug upcoming budget shortfall holds large lead

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A pair of ballot measures aimed at preventing deep cuts and widespread layoffs in Cherry Creek School District appeared on track for an easy win on Election Night.

Voters voiced wide support of ballot issue 4A — which asked voters for a tax increase — with 63.7% in favor and 36.3% against in early returns just after 7 p.m. Nov. 3.

Support came in even higher for 4B — which asked for a debt increase — with 70.1% in favor and 29.9% against.

"In CCSD, we know how essential our teachers, nurses, and mental health workers are for the success of our 55,000 students,” Karen Fisher, Cherry Creek Board of Education president, said in a statement around 9 p.m.. “The pandemic has (placed) a spotlight on their importance."

Cherry Creek faces a looming $60 million budget shortfall in the coming years, partly brought on by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Without a financial boost from voters, the district could have seen broad consequences, supporters of the ballot measures have said.

Among the possible hits: cutting hundreds of teachers, nurses, mental health staff, administrators and other support employees. Continued overcrowding of elementary students on the east side of the school district. The loss of a chance to bolster mental health treatment in a district that has put mental health front and center in its priorities.

Using a bond means issuing a debt to investors that the school district eventually will pay back with interest. School districts often use bonds for projects such as construction and for building maintenance.

Issue 4A asks for a mill levy change — a property tax increase. Mill levies pay for salaries, programs and items related to classroom instruction.

"We are so thankful to our community for recognizing the importance of our teachers, nurses and mental health staff,” Scott Siegfried, the head of the school district, said in the joint statement with Fisher. “These funds will maintain the high standards of excellence we are committed to and allow us to provide the resources necessary to prepare our students to pursue their own pathways of purpose.”

Ultimately, with the approval of both measures, the cost adds up to $1.65 per month for each $100,000 of a voter's home value, according to the school district. For a resident of a $500,000 home, that totals about $99 in a year.

Siegfried, the district superintendent, compared the cost to giving up one expensive coffee drink per month.

“We did a lot of polling, and we really tried to pull back the bond to (get) the most reasonable number we could,” Siegfried told Colorado Community Media this fall. He added: “That seems reasonable, given everything on the other side where we'd have to sacrifice the education of our kids.”

In mid-October, it appeared that no organized opposition to 4A and 4B had formed during the campaign season, according to online records from the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

No one filed comments against 4A and 4B by the constitutional deadline for Arapahoe County's information booklet on this year's ballot questions.

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