East Grand will ask voters to boost pay for teachers, staff | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand will ask voters to boost pay for teachers, staff

The East Grand School District will be asking voters to consider a tax raise this November that, if passed, would raise $1 million per year for school staff and teachers.

On Tuesday, the board of education voted unanimously in favor of bringing a mill levy override ballot measure to voters. At current assessment rates, the $1 million would cost homeowners $10.42 per $100,000 of actual property value per year. For commercial properties, the cost would be $42.24 per $100,000 of actual value.

The money raised could only go toward staff recruitment and retainment, such as improving salaries and benefits or preventing staff cuts during lean budget years.

Over the summer, the district hired a surveying company that asked 350 voters in Grand about their support for various tax measures. According to that survey, 69% of respondents said they would favor a mill levy override. Those surveyed also were most positive about paying for and increasing teacher pay to compete with other districts, in addition to retaining school staff.

According to a 2019 analysis for the Colorado Legislative Council, East Grand sees the ninth highest cost of living out of 178 school districts in the state. The average salary for teachers in East Grand was $52,358 as of 2019, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

The wording for the mill levy ballot measure will be finalized before Sept. 4.

The school board also considered a bond request, which would have focused on facility improvements, but the proposal failed in a 3-3 vote.

While half the board members were optimistic that voters would see the need for facility improvements, the others felt asking for more than one tax increase during an economic crisis would be viewed negatively by voters.

The cheapest bond consideration would have covered $63.7 million in improvements, including a replacement school for Granby Elementary and reimbursing the reserves that have been used in funding the security improvements associated with the BEST Grant.

Last summer, East Grand obtained a $2.1 million BEST Grant for security improvements across the district. The district must provide $5.9 million in matching funds for this grant, which is currently supplemented by a certificate of participation.

However, a certificate of participation is typically only used as a temporary funding mechanism before the district goes to voters to approve a bond or mill levy override. The district could go to voters in the future for a bond to help fund the $5.9 million in matching funds.

East Grand ended the 2019-20 school year with $5.6 million in reserves, but the district expects to spend $1.2 million of that to make up a deficit in this year’s budget.

The mill levy override that will be on November’s ballot will have language allocating the $1 million to staff retention and recruitment, meaning that specific money cannot be used toward facility improvements or the certificate of participation.

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