Our View: Vote 'no' on Amendment 66

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Amendment 66 is not as simple as the television ads supporting it imply.

If you believe the Colorado Commits to Kids campaign, which claims “small price, big change,” students across Colorado will get all-day kindergarten, gym class, one-on-one instruction and music and art classes for an investment of only $133 per year.

At issue

Amendment 66, which would implement a new, two-tiered state income tax to fund education

Our view

Amendment 66 lacks guarantees about how money will be spent.

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Steamboat Today editorial board — June to December 2013

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • David Baldinger Jr., community representative
  • Lisa Brown, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

What these ads fail to explain is that $133 per year per household, which is based on Colorado’s median income of $57,685, adds up almost $1 billion in tax revenue annually and represents the largest tax increase in state history.

And there is nothing in Senate Bill 213, which Amendment 66 funds, that specifies how the tax money generated by the new two-tiered income tax would be spent. Some of it will be used to implement all-day kindergarten and preschool programs, which is a good investment, but there is no guarantee that districts or the state will use that money to restore cuts to programs like music or physical education.

In a nutshell, Amendment 66 would raise the state individual income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent on the first $75,000 of taxable income and to 5.9 percent for all taxable income more than $75,000. The extra money would be used to fund public schools under a new formula for distributing state and local money to school districts. Amendment 66 also repeals Amendment 23, which requires student per-pupil funding to increase by at least the rate of inflation annually, and the proposed amendment requires that at least 43 percent of state income, sales and excise tax receipts be used for public education.

Amendment 66 is the funding portion of Senate Bill 213, which overhauls the state’s funding formula for education but fails to provide specific, significant plans for education reform. The money generated by the new tax system will be earmarked specifically for education, but how much of that money actually will end up in the classroom and how that money will improve the state’s educational system is unclear and leaves too many unanswered questions.

Amendment 66 does not have any provisions that prevent a district from using money as it sees fit. It creates a kindergarten through 12th-grade education fund, which includes administration, meaning money could be spent outside of the classroom and at the administrative level. There also are no clear mechanisms in the amendment for measuring the results of how this increased spending is improving Colorado’s educational system.

For Steamboat Springs, where the median income is about $64,000, average taxpayers will pay about $150 more per year in taxes under Amendment 66, and the tax implication increases significantly for those making $75,000 or more. Local school district officials have estimated that Steamboat Springs School District patrons will pay about $6.7 million per year in new taxes to the state if the amendment passes, and the school district will receive about $1.5 million back.

Steamboat Springs students do stand to benefit from Amendment 66 with an increase of $353 in per-pupil expenditures. Hayden and South Routt also will gain per-pupil expenditure increases of $522 and $375, respectively. But how that money will be used to improve education at the state and local levels remains unclear. In fact, the implications of Amendment 66 are so nebulous that the Steamboat Springs School Board voted not to support the measure.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today supports education, but we do not support a measure that seeks to impose the largest tax in state history without a solid plan for real education reform with measurable outcomes. Throwing money at a problem doesn’t work. Schools must have significant tax support to succeed, but it’s wrong to assume that dollars alone equal success.

The newspaper also continues its stand against legislating by constitutional amendment. Using a constitutional amendment (Amendment 66) to fix the problems created by another constitutional amendment (Amendment 23) does not make good political sense. Constitutional amendments linked to funding mandates tie legislators’ hands and limit our elected officials’ ability to create policy, appropriate funds and effectively run the government. And ultimately, the net result is less accountability.

Amendment 66 imposes an additional tax burden on state taxpayers without the payoff of true education reform. The new funding formula seeks to redistribute tax money more equitably across the state’s school districts, but it does not reward districts for student achievement. And there is no guarantee the money raised by the new tax will be spent as promised.

We encourage voters to vote “no” on Amendment 66.

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Comments

Ben Beall 1 year, 1 month ago

So the Steamboat Pilot Editorial Board would like to micromanage the needs of education across the entire State rather than leave it up to school administrators and elected school boards to determine what is best? Seems like tying the hands of the experts to me. Your logic regarding constitutional amendments also fails me. How can the State rectify poor past constitutional language without a constitutional amendment? I too am cautious of constitutional referenda however the current effort has been done via extensive discussion and compromise to correct a past amendment pushed by special interest.

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Paul Hughes 1 year, 1 month ago

After reading the Pilot's editorial against Amendment 66, I downloaded and read all 141 pages of Senate Bill 13-213 -- something the editorial board members would be advised to do. I believe that the Senate bill is an exhaustive description of what money would be raised, where it would go, what it must be used for (in excruciating detail), how the schools' performance will be measured, and how the performance of the law itself will be audited. The Pilot's editorial is misinformed.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago

But there is no stick to go along with the carrot of more money. For instance, there is nothing to force Hayden to fix their abysmal performance on high school math.

Testing doesn't really matter if the steps needed to correct poor results is not politically popular in the district. Any number of large urban districts have had a superintendent getting good results by getting rid of ineffective teachers and not allowing disruptive students from preventing other students from learning. Only for the teacher's union and parents unhappy for various reasons to get together and force out the superintendent. So they can return to what they are comfortable with.

Parents that care about education don't send their kids to those schools so there is not the normal counterbalancing force of parents that want better schools. Such as many parents in Hayden deal with the poor high school test results by sending their kids to SB schools instead of going to school board meetings and insisting upon change. And a whole lot more families simply will not consider moving to a school district with that sort of performance issues.

There is little doubt that SB schools would use the money to improve education. There is little reason to believe that Hayden will use the money to fix their bad high school test scores.

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Dave McClure 1 year, 1 month ago

I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! I have seen this kind of tripe before! Before I moved to Steamboat, I lived in Knoxville, TN.. There was a measure brought up similar to this one that would raise a tax that would be shared by ALL the school districts in Knox County. The claim was that every student would have a better education and so on etc..etc... I asked many of the persons whom supported this piece of legislation about our inner city schools receiving their fair share of this bountiful tax and was assured that everyone would benefit from this pot -o- gold. IT WAS A LIE! I knew it was and voted against "consolidation." That was the word they used to snooker the voters. Bill 66 is the same thing! For only 130 something dollars we have the answer to all your educational woes. In Knoxville, Tennessee's case the money was doled out to high population areas at the expense of the small inner city and small county schools. They were CLOSED! I do not mind tax increases especially for education, but i want my money spent HERE! In Steamboat Springs! In Routt County! I can guarantee you that northern Colorado will suffer if this bill passes. Don't be SNOOKERED by slick advertising. Check it out and you will see that your hard earned dollars will head to metropolitan areas of Colorado.

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George Hresko 1 year, 1 month ago

All Above Commenters-I am confused with the information provided not only in this editorial, but also with the advertisements provided by the 66 supporters. For those of you numerically inclined, I am trying to understand just how much this amendment will cost. The adverts refer to an 'average', and I recall an old expression that one can drown in a stream averaging less than six inches deep. It appears that the SS School District tax payers will be net out of pocket about $5 million annually. How much more than the statewide average of $133 per household is this $5 million? If we are average, then we must have about 37,000 households. If we are twice average, then we must have 18 to 19,000 households in the SS School District! With a RC population of roughly 20 thousand, both of these numbers beggar the imagination. So, just what is the per household cost for SS School District taxpayers? What multiple of the statewide average is that? Numbers like those will help me, and perhaps others make up their minds on the amendment.

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Charles Rollman 1 year, 1 month ago

Here's my take on Amendment 66:

The Colorado income tax receipts for 2012 were about $5B. Amendment 66 increases them by $1B. This is a 20% increase in the Colorado individual income tax.

There are 2,000,000 households in Colorado according to the US Census. Divide this number into $1B and you get an average of $500 tax increase per household. There will be a lot of people who pay well over the commonly quoted $133 household number.

The income tax rate for those earning under 75K will increase by 0.37% from 4.63% to 5.00%. This is an increase of 0.37/4.63 or 8%. If you paid a dollar last year, this year you'll pay $1.08.

The incremental income tax rate for those earning over 75K (which probably includes a lot of two income households) goes from 4.63% to 5.9%. This is a gargantuan increase of 1.27/5.9 = 27%. If you paid a dollar last year, you'll now pay $1.27.

The $133 figure commonly quoted by proponents of Amendment 66 glosses over the real impact on Colorado taxpayers. This is a huge tax increase that only benefits the education sector. There's no money for infrastructure and no money for storm water mitigation.

Amendment 66 is a bad bill and should be rejected.

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George Hresko 1 year, 1 month ago

Charles-Thank you for taking the time to respond. Looks like we have here the all-too-typical problem of definition, in this case what is 'average'? In the case described by you, it clearly means the 'mean', that is the total incremental cost divided by the total number of households, which I happen to think is the appropriate measure. The 66 proponents are just as clearly, now that you have exposed it, using the median value--i.e. half the households fall below and half the households are above the number. The difference between the mean and median is already three times, i.e. the mean value is three times the median value! I suspect that for the SS School District the per household average cost is much higher than even the statewide mean, and would appreciate a knowledgeable, numerate reader here to provide the figures that we will pay. Double the mean? Five or six times the median?

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