Voters to act on school funding, pot taxes in Nov.
September 26, 2013
This November, Colorado voters will be asked to raise income taxes to provide more funding to schools and to tax retail marijuana sales. Local voters also will be asked to increase the mill levy for the Grand County Library District, and to change the state's constitution one senator per county representing them at the state legislature.
The different school districts in the county will also vote for new school board directors and will decide whether to support a number of other issues pertaining to each district.
Amendment 66 will ask Colorado voters to increase state income taxes by .37 percent, bringing income tax to 5 percent for the first $75,000 of taxable income and to 5.9 percent on any taxable income over $75,000. The additional money generated from the tax hike would be deposited in a separate fund that would go towards funding public education.
Colorado's current income tax rate is a flat 4.63 percent for everyone regardless of income. The proposed tax hike, if approved by Colorado voters, would come as a two-tiered tax increase and would set a flat-tax rate of 5 percent for all taxable income below $75,000 a year. A 5.9 percent tax rate would be applied to earnings above the $75,000 threshold.
The proposed amendment would raise an additional $950,100,000 to fund public schools in Colorado. East Grand School District stands to receive an estimated $1.2 million of additional funding if the amendment passed, $641,000 of which would go towards school programs and the rest towards teacher and leader investment funding, according to Donette Schmiedbauer, the district's finance director. West Grand School District would see an estimated $368,000 in increased funding.
If the amendment were to pass, households with a gross income of $50,000 would pay an additional $97 in income tax, while households with a gross income of $100,000 would pay an additional $243.
The current formula the state uses to fund public education requires that the base funding amount increase every year by at least inflation and that the State Education Fund receive about 7.2 percent of all income tax revenue to support the annual increase in base per-pupil funding.
The recent recession has reduced the amount of state and local tax revenue available for public education funding, and in the past three years, the state has had to reduce the amount of money going to school districts due to a decline in state revenue.
The new amendment would set a minimum level of funding for education, set at 43 percent of state tax income, sales, and excise tax revenue.
Along with raising taxes, the amendment would also implement legislation passed by the state legislature, Senate Bill 13-213, that would create a new formula for allocating state and local funding to individual school districts and particular students and programs throughout the state.
The legislation that would be enacted if the amendment passed would place more emphasis on students who are defined as at risk of academic failure or are English language learners. The legislation would also increase funding for kindergarten and preschool students.
The amendment would change the way school districts receive funding on a per-student rate to include students who enroll after the official count date set by the state in October, something that would benefit the local school districts, according to Jody Mimmack, superintendent for East Grand School District.
Mimmack commented that our schools see an increase of students as the school year progresses due to the winter activities that take place in the county. Under current law, the school does not receive funding for those pupils because they were not enrolled when the school submitted pupils counts. "We are obligated to educate them but because they weren't here in October, we don't receive funding for them," Mimmack said.
The amendment would also create an extensive accountability structure while giving school principles more control over how to apply funding to the school's at-risk students.
"They wouldn't just be giving us a blank check," Mimmack said.
The legislation would require a periodic study of the increases of in academic achievement resulting from the additional funding and would create a way for the public to track school-specific spending by administration and teachers, most likely a website.
Other school-related ballot questions
Voters in East Grand will also decide whether to increase taxes that will go towards maintaining and upgrading the technology infrastructure for the school district that would also help to purchase software applications and pay for training for students and teachers to use the new software. Voters will also vote for school board directors for districts 3, 4, 5, and 6. One director will be named for each district with two districts unopposed and two districts with multiple individuals seeking the position. The school board director position is a four-year term and in District 3 the position is being sought by Angel DeCicco, Matt Friesen, and Mike Loham. The position is unopposed in District 4 and the only person running is Chip Besse. Mike McGinley and Jerry Reid are seeking the position in District 5 and Phyllis Price is unopposed for the position in District 6.
The voters in the West Grand School District will have their choice of four of the six individuals who will be running for the four-year school board director positions. Brendan Gale, Tim Thomson, Jessica Smiley, Susan Ritschard, Travis Hoesli, and Jon Ewert are running for the positions.
Proposition AA, if approved, would impose a 15 percent state excise tax on the average wholesale price of retail marijuana, impose a 10 percent state sales tax on retail marijuana sales in addition to the existing 2.9 percent state sales tax, and would direct 15 percent of the revenue collected from the proposed 10 percent sales tax to the cities and counties where the retail marijuana is sold.
The proposition would also give the state legislature the ability to increase or decrease the excise and sales tax on the drug, so long as the rate of either tax does not exceed 15 percent.
The first $40 million of the tax collected under the proposition would go toward the state's fund for public school construction, as was proposed under Amendment 64, which legalized the recreational use, possession and sale of the drug for people ages 21 and older in the state.
Fraser voters will decide whether to impose a 5 percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana in the town. The tax would be in addition to the proposed state tax on the sale of the drug.
And voters in Fraser will be asked to enact a number of new measures related to the Byers Peak annexation as well as water treatment and sanitary sewer system funding.
Both of the proposed local mill increases that relate to water and waste water treatment seek to generate $200,000 annually by the imposition of not more than 5 mills against all taxable property within the town. The revenue generated from the proposed increase would go toward the maintenance, operations and other related expenses for the systems.
The annexation of the 295-acre Byers Peak property to the south of town is a hotly debated issue the town has been working on for years. Some residents in the town are opposed to the agreement and believe the town could get a better deal with the developer of the property. The majority of the town board and staff support the agreement. If the agreement with the town were to fall through, the developer could develop the property in unincorporated Grand County. More information about the Byers Peak Development and the history of the agreement can be found by searching "Byers Peak" at skyhidailynews.com.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334