Ballot measures would slash school funding in Routt County



How Proposition 101 would affect Routt County schools

At a glance

The measures and affects on schools:

■ Proposition 101 would reduce taxes and fees, mostly vehicle fees called “specific ownership taxes” that help fund school districts.

■ Amendment 60 would impose stricter limits on property taxes and require school districts to cut their mill levies in half by 2020.

■ Amendment 61 would limit local school districts from borrowing money and operating in debt, and the interest-free loan program would end.

DECIDE moves forward

A ballot measure to give legislators the discretion to raise taxes to fund education cleared another hurdle last week.

The Senate Education Committee by a 5-3 vote on Thursday approved DECIDE, or Decide: Education Cuts or Invest in our Democracy and Economy, a measure proposed by the Great Futures Colorado coalition, a group created by Great Education Colorado.

Great Education Colorado is a nonpartisan advocacy group for the state’s schools.

The House Education Committee previously approved DECIDE by an 8-4 vote.

Because it’s a “referred measure,” the Colorado House and Senate would have to approve it by a two-thirds majority.

The measure will go next to the Senate Finance Committee, said Liane Morrison, executive director of Great Education Colorado.

— Consider this: Revenue for Routt County school districts from specific ownership taxes would dwindle from $1.7 million in 2009 to $22,791 with full implementation of Proposition 101. If you’re a registered Colorado voter and plan to cast a ballot in November, you will.

In addition to deciding on Proposition 101, voters will be asked to weigh in on Amendments 60 and 61.

Amendment 60 would force districts to slash their mill levies in half by 2020 and repeal voter-approved tax increases, such as mill levy overrides. Amendment 61 would place strict limitations on state and local governments’ ability to borrow money and incur debt.

All three petition-led initiatives are aimed at decreasing taxes and reducing government spending.

The ballot measures come at a time when public K-12 education statewide has been cut by $260 million to help address the state’s 2010-11 fiscal year budget shortfall. Education officials expect state cuts to continue for the next two years.

The Steamboat Springs School District next year expects to have to cut about $2 million, or 7.5 percent, from its budget. It cut half a million this year and estimates that it will have to cut an additional million each in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

School Board member Brian Kelly, who is monitoring what’s happening in Denver, estimated that the three ballot measures would cost the district about half of its operating revenue, and that doesn’t include future cuts from the state.

About 83 percent of the revenue for the district’s 2010-11 projected budget comes from property taxes, mill levy overrides and specific ownership taxes. Each of the three sources would be significantly reduced, or eliminated, with the passage of Proposition 101 and Amendment 60.

“I don’t know how you would operate the district as we know it under those budget constraints,” Kelly said.

The numbers

Denver-based nonprofit The Bell Policy Center, which resear­ches initiatives that affect Colo­ra­do residents, has estimated that full implementation of Proposition 101 would cost the state more than $2.3 billion in lost revenue, which includes about $622 million for local governments and school districts.

Bruce Caughey, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, said all three measures could cost the state $4 billion in revenue. He said it’s important to consider schools because 48 percent of the state’s budget funds K-12 and higher education.

“We’ve experienced a statewide reduction this year in K-12 education funding,” he said. “If these measures pass, they will be devastating for education funding in Colorado. … We think that’s short-sighted to consider these measures, especially in these economic times.”

Based on preliminary calculations, Caughey said passage of the three ballot measures would result in 5,000 to 7,000 teachers getting laid off statewide, class sizes increasing and school closings.

At its last legislative meeting, Caughey said, CASE took a position to oppose all three measures.

The Bell Policy Center has started researching how Prop­osition 101 would affect each county in the state and last week completed an evaluation of Routt County.

According to Bell, the average cost last year to register a vehicle in the county was $91.35. Under Proposition 101, it would cost $1 for used vehicles and $2 for new vehicles.

Routt County generated about $3.08 million from specific ownership taxes, or vehicle registration taxes, in 2009. Under full implementation of Proposition 101, which would take four years, the revenue generated by the county in 2009 would decrease to $40,409 — a 98.7 percent reduction.

“That’s not me, the think tank guy, estimating that,” said Bell Communications Director Joe Watt, who is researching the impact of Proposition 101 for each county. “That’s a pure and simple math calculation.”

Schools, which receive the most revenue from specific ownership taxes, more than 56 percent, would be the biggest losers.

Specifically, Steamboat’s per-pupil revenue from specific ownership taxes would decrease from $665 in 2009 to $8.74 if voters approved Proposition 101.

Caughey added that the public school finance formula determines the state funding share, or equalization, based on what isn’t generated by local property taxes and other sources of local revenue.

“How is the state going to do that with so much less money?” he asked. “I just don’t see how it’s going to happen.”

The next steps

Caughey said a big part of what the Colorado Association of School Executives does until November would be educating its members about the impacts of Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61. He said it’s important to reach out to school leaders and members of communities to inform them about the measures so people “don’t go blindly forward and vote ‘yes.’”

Routt County Finance Di­­rector Dan Strnad said he has begun discussing with commissioners how the three ballot measures would affect the county. According to the Bell study, Proposition 101 would reduce county revenue from specific ownership taxes from nearly $849,000 in 2009 to $11,153.

Proposition 101 also would slash revenues from specific ownership taxes for entities such as libraries, fire districts, water districts, towns and medical centers.

Commissioner Nancy Staho­viak said that information would be used to help the county educate residents.

School District Finance Di­­rector Dale Mellor is scheduled to give a presentation about the ballot measures to the Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday night.

Kelly said he hopes Colorado voters consider the impact to school districts when they vote in November.

“I know times are tough, but I hope the citizens of the state have enough sense to not devastate the budgets of the school districts,” Kelly said.


babette dickson 6 years, 12 months ago

Dear Yampavalleyboy, I suppose you don't have children because if you do... You might want to move away from here and educate your kids in another State if theses measures succeed in November. Educating our children with such a new loss in revenue will be simply impossible. Our schools will most likely resemble schools in under developed countries: building in ruins, 35 students per class, no class resources, no art, no music, no foreign languages, no PE, no computers... these programs would go first out of the doors...etc. I just can't fathom how it could become as we are just learning the details and impacts of such measures. Yampavaleyboy: where do you work and live? Please cut your home revenue by over 60%, and tell me how you will make it. If you have the recipe, please let me know and my Superintendent, we really need creative people like you seem to be. Thank you very much.


Carrie Requist 6 years, 12 months ago

These propositions are a gutting to the public education system in Colorado and I can't imagine what the schools will look like if they pass.


aichempty 6 years, 12 months ago

Oh, come on. Home schooled kids do great. Parents can form co-ops and team up to do the same thing. It's not the end of the world; it's just the end of overpaid administrators and unnecessary infrastructure. Anybody with a broadband internet link can now get better instruction online than can be provided by graduates of the U S colleges granting education degrees.

A local system of cooperative private schools (not free, but low cost) using space in homes where the disruptive kids can be excluded without penalty would be ideal.

Valley Boy,

You've missed the most recent lesson from history. Banks which extended credit to those who cannot pay lost a bundle in the past two years. So did investors who purchased junk mortgage derivatives. The bubble busted, and now all that speculative wealth has disappeared. The debts are uncollectable and have been written off.

The same thing is going to happen to China. Why? They have loaned money to the U S Government which has given money away to people who then turn around and buy $#!+ from China. It was a giant Chinese Ponzi scheme. They took our jobs in manufacturing and production away with cheap labor, cut prices, sucked up all our money and lent it back to our government. When we default on those loans (and we will) the dollar will soar in value once again, Chinese goods will disappear from our store shelves and Americans will be able to get jobs manufacturing and producing stuff again. We'll have plenty of capital to make that happen BECAUSE we won't be in debt to China anymore.

China is a giant failed international bank. They just don't know it yet. They stole our markets by undercutting our prices and wages, and now the slack in the system has run out.

When the proverbial "Spring" comes in the new financial markets, we'll move back to a cash basis where we pay as we go. The old debts will be cancelled. Everything will start fresh. Hooking ourselves up with the World Economy was a bad decision. All we have to do is go back to creating wealth in this country, reduce expenditures for foreign energy, and get over our addiction to cheaply produced consumer throw-away goods. The "state of the art" is pretty good, and we can build cell phone in automated factories in Mississippi just as cheaply as they do it in China. All it takes is the will to do so, and the freedom to allow people to make a profit and create jobs over here.


babette dickson 6 years, 12 months ago

Question for Aichempty: With your wonderful home based co-op educational program, how will you educate "the disruptive kids" to make sure they won't end up dependant from your tax payments? i.e. jail time (cause that's the highway for uneducated kids), no medical coverage because with no education = no job = no insurance, no car insurance because no education = no job = driving without insurance... Why would you pay for all these awful case scenarios instead of educating them to give them the best chances to succeed... what will you do with them, please give us some solutions, we are in need of very creative people thinking outside of the box.... Thanks. Last but not least: How will you educate the special needs kids, ADD, blind,... HOW?


JLM 6 years, 12 months ago

Whether this comes to pass or not, the educational establishment needs to take stock of its financial management and stewardship of hte public's purse.

People are angry by a bottomless educational pit which consumes their tax dollars with an unquenchable appetite.

Enough is enough.


seeuski 6 years, 12 months ago

Hi Babette, Is the School Superintendents contract being negotiated as we speak and is she seeking an extension along with a raise?


seeuski 6 years, 12 months ago

How do private schools compare with public schools with regards to cost and quality of education?


JustSomeJoe 6 years, 12 months ago

$2 to register a new car, $1 for a used car? Sounds like we would rob peter and not pay paul. Perhaps we should do away with car registration completely because $2 isn't going to provide the money necessary to maintain car registration information. Prop 101 is silly and will not pass.


Jon Quinn 6 years, 12 months ago

I think some of you posting here are completely missing the point. There may be fat left in the system, I have no doubt that there is. But which system? There is no question that our federal government, both Democrats and Republicans, have dug us into a ridiculous hole. There is no question that our corporations have sold out our future for easy profits yesterday. They have traded our manufacturing base and our technical expertise to foreign countries for short term profit with no regard for the effects on our long term economic strength as a nation. But you cannot tell me that the same is true of local government or our school systems. Is there room for improvement, you bet. But you cannot suggest to me with any seriousness that effectively dismantling our public education systems will have a positive net effect on our children.

But here is the point which has escaped some of you... We must evaluate these decisions based on how they may increase or decrease our competitiveness in a global economy.

Which nations are currently at the forefront of science research? Where is IT really created? Where are the top medical research facilities? Increasingly the US is finding it is lagging behind other nations, and our students are not prepared to compete for the best jobs. The nations which are investing in public education are fast gaining ground, and we are not even doing a very good job at playing catch up.

If we are to take a stand on something it should be standing up for our children and telling our lawmakers that we are tired of them selling out our children and our futures by balancing their budgets through cutting education. We should take a stand and tell our friends and neighbors we are willing to invest more, not less, in educating our children. Cutting taxes always sounds good to some voters. But how does cutting public education really sound to you? Do you think that is a wise business decision?


seeuski 6 years, 12 months ago

Jon, Interesting how you attack Corporations for using the global marketplace in their production and then in the same paragraph urge us to get our kids ready for the "global marketplace". It is a fact that Corps do what you say but the reasons are simple, because we tax our Corporations higher than most Countries do theirs, companies can't compete globally with the cost of goods/services sold unless they use outside labor. We can look at the effects the labor unions have had on our manufacturing costs over the decades and see how Corporations have failed because they can't compete with our competitors worldwide. GM, Chrysler and the Garment industry to name a few. Teachers unions have their union members and their union dues as motivation, is this another failing Industry because of the unions, I think one can argue that point especially when private schools succeed at a high level at 1/2 the cost of public schools. Your argument has been made year in and year out all the while the education budgets have been multiplied to no effect with a flat line on student achievement to show for it. Why did Obama cut the voucher program as soon as he took office? Teacher unions. Here is a dose of reality about the programs. Why end something that works? It costs 12 to 15k per student a year in public schools and $7,500 per for private. What creates the difference in cost? Government waste and unions as usual.


seeuski 6 years, 12 months ago

I know our local schools should not be compared to inner city schools but our costs of education should be compared to the private sector.


aichempty 6 years, 12 months ago


Regarding kids who cannot prosper in a cooperative home school environment:

I propose a level of education called "The Eighth Grade" to be provided at state facilities, centrally located for economy, in areas with plenty of service sector, restaurant and other employment opportunities as well as rental housing, so that parents who don't want to "send them away" can relocate to be near them. Denver would probably be the winner around here, although Grand Junction, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs might also be suitable. Canon City might also be a good choice.

Mainstreaming kids who cannot prosper in traditional classrooms without disrupting everyone else has been a waste of money.

Lower the working age to sixteen, and put the 8th grade equivalent kids to work cleaning toilets, picking fruit, cleaning streets, etc., the same way that people with similar qualifications were put to work 50 and 75 years ago. We don't need a 30-year-old Mexican illegal worker to do the job a sixteen-year-old citizen can handle with equal competence.

Your assumption that those who cannot pass in school should become a burden on the tax payers is flawed.

This country was built on free public education. It has been torn down by the same institution. Our educational system is a source of white-collar jobs for people who, for the most part, don't know how to survive outside a classroom in the world of adults. Each generation has gotten dumber, while the kids with real potential have been led to squander their talents on crap instead of guided into colleges with actual educational standards and curricula designed to produce graduates who can make our society better. Instead, it's been about the occupations that let people get rich, or on the other end, qualify for a job that doesn't include hand tools.

There have been plenty of good people in the history of this country who worked and supported themselves and their families on less than 12 years of education. If you're going to drive a truck or a bus, deliver the mail, hang drywall, frame houses, or even become a plumbers or electrician's apprentice, 8th or 9th grade (the way they used to be) is plenty of education. Why provide 3-4 years of daycare for pot heads and video game addicts who will never use the education that our system is involuntarily forcing on most of them. Put 'em to work. The value of a paycheck may be the most critical lesson they could learn.

There's nothing to stop people from finishing school when they are mature enough to prosper from it. There's also no reason to waste money on people who are not.

Our society used to have plenty of manual labor jobs for young men, or even old ones, who could not benefit from education beyond elementary school. You don't have to be able to read to shovel coal. There is more than one model of life that enables people to live with dignity without 12 years of public education.


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