Brunvand brings a practiced eye to school finances
Editor’s Note: Today continues a series of guest commentaries by the six school board candidates. Each has been offered a chance to pose their views. We are running them as they submit them.
In an effort to justify my re-election to the Summit School District Board of Education Nov. 4, I would like to take a moment to ponder some of what makes me an ideal candidate and what some of the issues are that I see facing the district in the future.
I have a thorough understanding of the issues facing the district: I have been a Summit County resident for more than 30 years; I am a former student and graduate of Summit Schools; I was a school district employee as the district accountant in the Central Office for eight years; I was elected to the board four years ago; my wife, Cheri, and I have two boys who attend Summit Schools, one in 10th grade and one in seventh grade; I have eight years past experience as an elected official on the Silverthorne Town Council; and I have been a leader in Cub Scouts, 10th Mountain Memorial in Breckenridge, previous board member and president of Advocates for Victims of Assault. I also own a small income tax business.
Three important issues facing the district are fiscal soundness, the success and value offered each and every student and the exceptional district staff.
As the finance director for the town of Minturn and previous accountant for the district, it is my job to fully understand the challenging effects of the laws passed at the state level that most affect governmental funding.
The three most important for this letter are the School Finance Act (including Amendment 23), the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) and the Gallagher amendment.
The School Finance Act states each student will be funded at the same level throughout the state with only minimal allowance for local growth, inflation and cost of living.
Very little latitude is allowed between the kids in the farm communities of eastern Colorado and Summit County kids. Although there is a cost of living index, it is woefully inadequate with real dollars.
Amendment 23, which I categorize with the Finance Act for simplicity, has protected and increased revenues available to finance K-12 public education. However, because of Gallagher, TABOR and a declining state economy, other state programs have suffered putting the long-term viability of this funding in doubt.
The TABOR Amendment requires voter approval for any new or increased tax even if the tax increase does not create higher revenues than received in the previous years.
It also requires voter approval for retention of revenue greater than the previous year. TABOR requires the district to hold in an unspendable reserve 3 percent of the General Fund revenues, while at the same time outlaws the ability to save for a rainy day.
Three percent is too small and no savings is unsafe. Imagine being forced by law to spend all of your income each year, never being able to save for a new home, or car, or college for your kids.
The Gallagher Amendment dictates how residential property is assessed. Since 1982 when the law was passed, we have seen an almost continuous decline in residential assessed valuations for taxing purposes.
As the amount of taxable values declines, the amount garnered from the tax pot decreases. This combined with TABOR means that in order to hold ground, the funding must increase which requires a vote of the public.
We can barely fund at a sufficient level to operate and increasing the pupil funding level may not be legal under the School Finance Act. This is a significant effect both locally and statewide.
As a citizen and board member, I am proud of the education that is provided in our schools. As a school district, it is our responsibility to ensure that the educational needs of every student are fully met.
This is often a difficult task. However, with the modern facilities and plethora of programs offered by the district, we accomplish this.
We all must admit that it could not be done without the incredible staff – the administration that ensures the training and programs are there; our teachers who are some of the finest and best trained possible; the support staff that aids in the teaching or in ensuring the building is clean and safe; and the bus drivers who ensure our precious angels are transported safely.
This “can-do” attitude of a professional and qualified staff combined to underline the complete student with a passion for teaching and success.
Our test scores are improving both in the buildings and on a state and national scale. At Summit Schools, we are developing a tracking system that will track the first-grader as the class moves through the years. This data mining will ensure the success and accountability of each grade is present and being used.
Please feel free to call me at (970) 468-5782 if you would like to discuss these or any school-related questions.
The election in November will have many long-term implications and it is important the right person be on the Summit School Board.
Jay Brunvand lives in
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