Ballot Measure 4A: Mill levy override seeks to convert kindergarten funds to teacher pay, student mental health
Summit School District has placed Measure 4A on the 2019 coordinated election ballot, seeking to retain a tax originally intended to fund full-day kindergarten in the district by redirecting the funds to teacher and staff pay as well as behavioral health counseling. The mill levy override would not raise any taxes.
The tax is a mill levy in the amount of 0.429 mills, originally passed by Summit County voters in 2007 to fund full-day kindergarten in the district. In 2020, that levy will raise $950,000 in property taxes from the district. If the levy goes away, Summit property taxpayers will get a tax refund in the amount of $3.07 per $100,000 in assessed property value.
In April, Colorado state government passed a law that funds full-day kindergarten statewide and banned public school districts from charging tuition for full-day kindergarten. That means Summit County’s kindergarten mill levy will be invalidated in January without a fundamental change in its purpose.
To avoid losing that money, the school district has placed a measure on this year’s ballot that asks voters to allow the district to retain the levy for other purposes. Two-thirds of the mill levy revenue would go toward increasing base pay for district teachers and staff with the other third being used to fund school counseling and mental health programs for Summit students.
“When it comes to retaining our current teachers, we recognize the high cost of living up here and how difficult it is for teachers and staff to live here,” District Director of Business Services Kara Drake said. “We feel anything we can do to improve teacher salary helps us keep the high quality teachers and staff we already have as well as recruiting new teachers by having a strong salary schedule.
Regarding the behavioral health funds for students, Drake said that if the override is approved, the funds would go toward increasing the number of school counselors at the elementary school level as well as providing additional mental health programs districtwide.
“We know there’s a lot of good research around programs that can help students when they have these mental health needs,” Drake said.
Mike Tabb, chairman of the Summit County Republicans, said he has several issues with 4A. First, he said, saying the mill levy override doesn’t increase taxes is misleading as the levy increases in amount as assessed property values increase, meaning the possibility of a higher tax amount down the road.
Second, he said the wording in the 4A question was overly broad, meaning the district could wind up using it for purposes other than those outlined in the question.
Finally, Tabb noted information gleaned from the TABOR notice for Summit County’s local elections that shows Summit School District spending has increased by nearly $11 million since the 2015-16 school year, or 24%, without a significant increase in enrolled pupils in that time. That, Tabb said, is a sign of a district with little accountability as far as budgeting its revenue.
“No one argues against the societal value of a quality education, but at some point, our school district must learn to live within its means,” Tabb said.
Without increasing the current tax rate of .429 mills currently imposed for full day kindergarten and approved by the voters in 2007, shall Summit School District RE-1 collect $950,000 in 2020, and by whatever amounts as may be generated annually thereafter by continuing the imposition of not to exceed .429 mills to be deposited in the general fund and used for educational purposes including but not limited to the following:
- Attracting and retaining quality teachers and staff; and
- Enhancing school counseling and mental health programs for students;
by a property tax mill levy in excess of the levy authorized for the district’s general fund, pursuant to and in accordance with Section 22-54-108, C.R.S.; provided that the expenditure of district revenue will be monitored by the board of education, will be reviewed publicly, and will be reported in the district’s independent audit published on the district’s web site; and shall the district be authorized to collect, retain and spend all revenues from such taxes and the earnings from the investment of such revenues as a voter approved revenue change and an exception to the limits which would otherwise apply under article x, section 20 of the Colorado Constitution?
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