Ballot measure would increase East Grand school budget by $2M

Voters in November will be asked to decide a ballot measure that would increase school funding across the state, including a $2 million per year funding increase for the East Grand School District, but would increase some taxes.

Amendment 73 would raise $1.6 billion in additional funding for public schools by raising the corporate income tax and implementing a graduated income tax, while reducing property tax assessments. The funds would be dispersed to each district for them to decide how to spend.

East Grand Superintendent Frank Reeves said the district has not officially decided what the increase in funding would go toward, but has considered raising employee salaries and building maintenance projects. The school district plans to send out a community survey to identify spending priorities.

“The bigger issue is how do we get that money directed at kids in the best way, so the (school board) wants to hear from the administration and they want to hear from teachers and they want to hear from the community,” Reeves said.

Reeves said the survey will likely go out in late September and have 20 to 25 options, such as increasing teacher salaries, curriculum changes and improving bus routes, as well as a spot for other suggestions.

The amendment would use a graduated tax rate on taxable income over $150,000, which the state estimates will only impact 8 percent of taxpayers. It would also set the residential property assessment rate at 7 percent and the nonresidential rate at 24 percent, which is lower than current rates.

The corporate income tax increase would increase by 1.37 percent and apply only to C Corporations.

Right now East Grand receives about $9-10 million per year, so the increase would be about a 20 percent of the total annual budget. Regardless of how the district spends the funds, Reeves said it will have a positive impact on the education system.

“Just things like (improving bus routes), we can actually start looking at and seeing we can make a difference instead of saying there’s no sense in looking at it because here’s our limited budget,” Reeves explained.

The school district has experienced issues with underfunding recently, as much as $8 million since 2009. This has meant that spending priorities have been put off in previous years and the achievement gap between marginalized students, such as at risk students or those with special needs, and other students has grown.

“In my time in Colorado, which is since 1995, this is the most promising thing I’ve seen come out about how to fund education in a more fair and full manner,” Reeves said. “We talk a lot about how education funding needs to be equitable, but it has to be adequate before you can get equitable. And this is a great start towards giving us enough that then we can get equitable funding.”

Reeves said the community played a large role in getting the amendment on the ballot and has generally been supportive of the initiative. The school board even recently passed a resolution in support of the amendment.

However, the amendment will need to receive 55 percent of the vote in order to pass.

Grand County Commissioner Richard Cimino said the amendment represents a “once in generation opportunity” to invest in communities by recruiting and supporting teachers and schools.

“Our students deserve educators who can afford to work and live in the communities they serve,” Cimino said. “Losing quality teachers means students miss out on great instruction.”

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