Jeffco school district to seek a bond and mill levy this November

Board of Education also supports Amendment 73


The Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education went three for three at its Aug 23 meeting, voicing support for a statewide school funding measure, and also deciding to go for county tax increases as well on this November's ballot.

The five-member board voted unanimously on all three issues — a $567 million bond, a  mill levy override of $33 million a year,  and the education funding bill Amendment 73 is estimated to bring $134 million in additional funds to the district. 

Amendment 73 would be a fundamental shift in how school funding is provided in Colorado, shifting the burden slightly from property tax, and onto those paying income tax who make $150,00 or more. 

"This isn't an either/or proposition," said boardmember Brad Rupert. "We need all those things."

About two dozen members of the public spoke at the board meeting before the board's decision, and largely spoke in favor of all three ballot issues. 

"We are here to support your decision as a unified school board to move forward to improve our faciltites and improve our district," said Esther Valdez, the principal of Rose Stein Elementary and also the president of the Jefferson County Administrators Association. 

Other administrators, teachers and parents spoke in support of more funding for Jeffco, though a few urged caution regarding a crowded ballot. 

The three additional sums of revenue would be earmarked for different things.  The bond money would be used for facilities, building some new schools, making repairs, building additions and updating infastructure.

The mill levy would be used to fund ongoing costs, primarily used to make teacher pay more competitive but also for classroom supplies, school safety measures and expanding the district's full-day kindergarten program.

"These are the things that bring a school building to life," Superintendent Jason Glass said to describe the purpose of mill levy funding.

The Amendment 73 money would go to Colorado school districts to be spent however they see fit. However, as part of giving the amendment their support, the Jeffco school board gave a general list of how they would use the money. Their description describes 60 percent of the money going towards "to bring all schools and classrooms to quality standard for instruction, safety and security and upkeep, expand career and technical education sites, and expand early childhood education." The board's resolution states that 10 percent of the funding would go to charter schools. 

"Amendment 73 is what our Jeffco students have been waiting for, and it's what they deserve," boardmember Amanda Stevens said, after making the motion to support it.  

Jeffco households with annual income below $150,000 a year would see a small decrease in their taxes. The combined cost of both the mill levy and bond measure would cost about $3 a month more, per $100,000 in property value. 

As part of the ballot language, no money from the Jeffco bond or mill levy can be used for executive administration. Increases to the district's administrative budget has been a current point of criticism by board critics this school year. 

The Board of Education will vote on final ballot language on Sept. 6.

During board discussion, the five elected officials acknowleged that such a crowded ballot, and three simultanious tax requests would be a tough sell — a marathon metaphor was used several times. 

"It's goiing to take all of us to pull this off," said Board of Education President Ron Mitchell. 


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