Board: Amendment 21 too damaging to schools

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— Concerns that passage of a tax cut initiative on this year's ballot would cripple local school districts, the Steamboat Springs Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution at its Monday night meeting to oppose Amendment 21.
"The board feels very, very strongly about the impact 21 would have not only on schools but all public services water district, fire district, cemetery district everything," Superintendent Cyndy Simms said.
The tax cut proposal would significantly reduce revenues from the state income tax, the local property tax, various utility taxes and charges and vehicle sales, use and ownership taxes over time.
The school board believes the proposal will have the greatest impact on the state and those local governments that are dependent upon the tax or state revenue, which means it will have an immediate and dramatic impact on funding for Colorado's public schools.
The initiative would dramatically reduce revenues for public schools at a time when demand for increased student achievement and expectations for student performance are at an all-time high, board members agreed.
"The far-reaching impact of this tax cut proposal is impossible to estimate, which means it is likely to have consequences that no one can accurately forecast to inform voters making a decision on this measure in November," the Board of Colorado Education Systems reported to school districts statewide.
"A strong and vibrant economy depends to a large extent on a solid infrastructure of services, not the least of which is a well-educated work force and quality schools, all of which will be diminished by these drastic tax reductions," it added.
In part because the board members said the cumulative financial impact of the proposed tax cut measure would hit public schools the hardest at a time when school funding in the state is already well below the national average, the board also resolved to support Amendment 23, which would increase school funding.
The school funding initiative mandates that school funding increase by inflation plus 1 percent every year for the next 10 years and by inflation each year thereafter, which, the school board reported, will reverse the erosion in financial support for public schools that has occurred over the past 13 years.
"This is a proactive amendment, and we support it," Simms said. "It provides a requirement that Legislature fund the schools so that any growth and inflation are fully covered. The 1 percent is only for a 10-year period and is intended to move Colorado as a state to 25 in terms of school financing."
Colorado is ranked as low as 48th and as high as 32nd in terms of how much funding each states provides its school districts, Simms said.
When the actual dollars spent for operating purposes for teachers, class size, utilities, transportation are taken, Colorado is somewhere about 47, 48 or 49.
"Either way," Simms said, "we are not anywhere close to 25. We're hopeful that Amendment 23 will pass. It's a very slow way, but at least it's a guaranteed way for the state of Colorado's financing to be at least 25 in the country."

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4204 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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