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Since 1994, Colorado’s School Finance Act has been designed to ensure every student in Colorado has the same educational opportunity regardless of where the student lives. Under the Act, the total per-pupil funding received by each school district includes a “base” per-pupil amount (base funding) that represents what it takes to educate an average student in an average district. The base amount is then adjusted by “factors,” which account for unique local circumstances such as size, at-risk students in the district, cost of living, and personnel costs.
The School Finance Act and school funding is confusing. What voters need to know is that because education funding in Colorado is capped by the School Finance Act and its complicated formula, Eagle County School District does not receive a windfall from increased assessed property values. As assessed values go up the local share increases and the State share decreases, resulting in…you’ve got it, no windfall for the district.
The total amount each school district receives under the School Finance Act is referred to as the “total program,” which includes both the state share and the local share. The local share is generated through property taxes and specific ownership taxes (vehicle ownership taxes).
State funding is expected to decrease from 42% of the school district budget to 22% while local share is increasing from 55% to 75%. Along with the change in percentage contribution is a decrease to the current mill levy overrides, resulting in a total budget increase of just 4.3% despite property values increasing at a much higher rate.
Voters in the Eagle County School District will be asked to vote on a mill levy and a bond issue. The Mill Levy Override (5A MLO) is to invest in people, programs, and services. The Bond (5B Bond) is to invest in the maintenance of schools & critical new facilities.
Vail Valley Partnership’s board of governors is proud to support and encourage a YES vote on the Mill Levy and Bond questions. We believe a high-quality education system is the bedrock of a prosperous and thriving community. Furthermore, a school mill levy override and bond question demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of the community’s teachers, students, and families. Quality education not only prepares students for future success but also enhances the overall quality of life for residents.
Specific to this year’s ballot, the mill levy override will support the district’s commitment to retain and recruit the best and brightest teachers and staff, enhance the safety and security of schools and classrooms, and provide critical support services including mental health counseling and intervention specialists.
The MLO will help maintain programs including art, music, technology, and physical education supporting vibrant learning experiences, core skills, and language development, improving academic performance opportunities for students. And if assessed values go up in the future, the mill levy will go down.
The Bond will address one of our largest community challenges by allowing Eagle County Schools to construct employee housing to retain and attract teachers and staff. It will also expand early childhood education and care services by building an early learning center in Gypsum and expanding the capacity of the Edwards Early Learning Center.
The Bond will also improve school safety and security of schools and classroom environments and replace, update, or repair roofs, HVAC, playgrounds, gyms, locker rooms, and athletic facilities improving learning environments and extending the useful life of existing facilities.
Importantly, the 5A MLO and 5B Bond questions will still provide an overall decrease in the mills and related property tax for ECSD due to the School Finance Act. We encourage you to vote yes on both issues.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com