Election Guide: Soroco schools ask for OK on property tax


Election 2010

Visit www.steamboatpilot.com/election20010 for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

Referendum 3A

Shall South Routt RE-3 School District taxes be increased $354,357 in tax collection year 2011, and annually thereafter for five years and then terminated (sunset), the proceeds to be used for educational purposes to be approved by the board of education which shall include, but not be limited to:

■ Maintaining current education programs that promote student achievement

■ Attracting, training and retaining high quality teachers and support staff

■ Maintaining small class sizes

■ Maintaining district buildings and grounds

■ Replacing reduced state funding

By an additional property tax to be levied at a rate sufficient to produce the amount specified above, which taxes shall be deposited into the general fund of the district, shall be in addition to the property taxes that otherwise would be levied for the general fund and shall constitute a voter approved revenue change that may be collected and spent without further voter approval, notwithstanding the limitations of Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or any other law?

— The South Routt School District needs its residents to approve a property tax increase Nov. 2, Russ Garrity said.

Garrity, chairman of the Improve Soroco Schools committee, said that the state cut the district’s funding and that the district expects additional cuts in future years. He said South Routt residents’ approval of Referendum 3A would generate $354,357 annually for the district.

“This year, the school district is being impacted very negatively by events in Denver,” Garrity said. “We didn’t do anything wrong, but the recession has caused our revenues to be rolled back 7.75 percent, and that’s a huge number.”

Finance Director Dina Murray said that resulted in a general fund reduction of about $435,000 this year. She said the district reduced its cash reserves; cut an administrative position and two paraprofessionals; cut supplies, services and training, and froze faculty and staff salaries to make up for it.

Superintendent Scott Mader said the district has been told that more statewide cuts will be required next year.

“If we get more cuts from the state and have to cut deeper into programming and staff, it’s going to be damaging to our students,” he said.

Garrity said the revenue generated from the property tax increase would allow the district to maintain existing programs and class sizes, retain and attract teachers and maintain school facilities.

He said 65 percent of the district’s general fund pays for faculty and staff salaries and benefits.

The property tax increase would expire after five years. It would cost about $17 per $100,000 of assessed residential property value annually, about $61 per $100,000 of assessed commercial property value annually and about $31 per $50,000 of assessed agricultural property value annually.

Colorado school districts are funded by the state’s Public School Finance Act, which is updated every year with a formula that determines the total amount of per-pupil funding for each district. That funding is intended to be sufficient to cover the operating cost of a school district. However, the Finance Act also allows districts to ask voters for additional property tax revenues beyond what is provided through the state formula. Those additional revenues can’t exceed 25 percent of the total funding provided to districts.

The Improve Soroco Schools group has hosted three public meetings to tell residents why the district is asking for a property tax increase.

The district started talking about going to the voters before Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, tax-cutting ballot measures, were certified for the ballot. Garrity said the ballot measures complicate matters for South Routt because they could further reduce the district’s revenue.

According to an analysis of the ballot measures’ impact on school funding, called “Looking Forward,” South Routt would lose 43.6 percent, or nearly $1.9 million of its annual revenue. The analysis was conducted by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, The Bell Policy Center and the Colorado Children’s Campaign.


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