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Grassroots St. Vrain Hosting Conversations on Amendment 73 School Funding Measure

September 19, 2018

Lauren Rider teaches an algebra class at Altona Middle School last year.

If you go

What: Community conversations on Amendment 73

When/Where:

• 6 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Carbon Valley Regional Library, 7 Park Ave., Firestone

• 7 p.m. Oct. 10, Longmont Public Library, 409 Fourth Ave.

More info: grassrootsstvrain.org

Grassroots St. Vrain is supporting Amendment 73, a statewide ballot initiative that would raise an estimated $1.6 billion for the state’s 178 school districts.

“It’s not going to be perfect for everyone, but we do we feel like this is a reasonable way to approach raising revenue for education,” said Laura McDonald, co-founder of Grassroots St. Vrain.

To help provide factual information about the measure, the organization is also holding two upcoming community conversations. Providing information, not campaigning, is the goal, McDonald said.

“We’re not trying to put campaign sound bites out there,” she said. “We want people to have a resource to get factual information so they can feel like they’re making an informed decision.”

Grassroots St. Vrain’s mission is to keep the St. Vrain Valley community informed about education funding in Colorado.

The St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school boards also recently approved resolutions supporting the measure.

Supporters say Amendment 73 will both increase revenue to cash-strapped school districts and create a more sustainable funding model.

The money would increase the base funding for school districts, as well as pay for full-day kindergarten and more preschool seats while giving districts more money for special education, second language and gifted students.

To demonstrate the need, supporters point to teacher shortages, more than half of the state’s school districts moving to four-day weeks to save money and the state’s per-pupil spending falling below the national average.

The constitutional amendment would raise $1.6 billion by increasing income tax for high earners — people who make more than $150,000 in taxable income a year, accounting for 8.2 percent of the state’s population.

The rest of the state’s tax filers wouldn’t see an increase.

The tax rate for the state’s larger “C” category corporations also would increase by 1.37 percent to 6 percent.

At the same time, the measure would change another constitutional amendment, the Gallagher Amendment, by dropping and freezing the state’s residential and non-residential K-12 property assessment rates at 7 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

Now, those rates are expected to gradually decrease, putting more pressure on the state to make up the difference to fund K-12 education.

The new residential rate would be a slight reduction from the current rate of 7.2 percent, while there is a larger drop for the non-residential rate paid by businesses, ranches and farms from the current 29 percent.

One concern of opponents, including former Boulder County commissioner and former state senator Jana Mendez, is that the measure will have unintended consequences.

Mendez said the Gallagher Amendment keeps the split of property taxes paid by homeowners and business owners at about 45 percent to 55 percent.

“I fear that freezing the Gallagher Amendment will start the shift back to homeowner property taxes,” Mendez said, saying homeowners bore more of the burden before the amendment was approved in the 1980s.

The increased property tax for schools also could reduce property tax revenue for other local jurisdictions, including cities and counties, she said.

Speaking at a recent St. Vrain school board meeting, Mendez said those concerns mean many who typically support education tax increases won’t support this one.

“It’s going to be a tough fight,” she said.

To calculate how the measure would impact what you would pay in taxes, go to www.cosfp.org .

While both the St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school districts are in better financial shape than many of the state’s school districts thanks to local voter-approved tax increases, officials say they remain underfunded.

The measure would generate an estimated $50.7 million more a year for St. Vrain schools and an estimated $48.7 million more a year for Boulder Valley schools.

“Having funds like this come into the district allows us to expedite priorities,” McDonald said. “St. Vrain is really on a great trajectory for the opportunities they’re providing for the kids. This could get them there faster.”

Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, boundsa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/boundsa

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