Election 2020: 4A asks voters to raise $1 million for teachers, staff at East Grand | SkyHiNews.com

Election 2020: 4A asks voters to raise $1 million for teachers, staff at East Grand

Teri Creach, a special education teacher at Middle Park High School, fills out a postcard encouraging voters in East Grand School District to pass a mill levy override. Ballot measure 4A asks taxpayers to raise $1 million to be used for teacher and staff recruitment and retainment.
Amy Golden / agolden@skyhinews.com

For Teri Creach, a yes on ballot measure 4A could mean staying in Grand County.

The special education teacher at Middle Park High School explained what the possibility of an additional $1 million for teachers and staff at East Grand School District means to her.

“I might be able to live in my own home,” Creach said. “I might not have to move out of the county.”

Creach came to Grand with 13 years of experience teaching in districts like Denver Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools. When she moved here three years ago to care for an ailing family member, she said she took a $22,000 pay cut.

East Grand had the ninth highest cost of living of any school district in the state according to a 2019 analysis for the Colorado Legislative Council. The Colorado Department of Education found that the average salary for teachers in East Grand was $52,358 that year, but statewide it was $57,746.

With East Grand behind in compensating teachers according the county’s cost of living, a mill levy for teacher and staff compensation will be on November’s ballot.

Voters in the East Grand School District, which includes Granby, Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs, Fraser and Winter Park, will be asked in ballot measure 4A to raise $1 million annually through a mill levy override. The funds could only be used for attracting and retaining “quality” teachers and staff, according to the ballot language.

At current assessment rates, that means a tax increase of $10.42 per $100,000 of assessed residential property values. The cost would be $42.24 per $100,000 for commercial property owners.

Eight-grade English teacher Emily Lamont said that the school district she previously worked for in Salida passed a similar mill levy, and the district soon began attracting more quality teachers.

Lamont, a teacher with 13 years of experience, also feels the financial strain of the area having bought a house in recent years that came with a steep mortgage.

“It is still hard at the end of the month to make ends meet as a teacher here due to housing prices and cost of living,” Lamont said.

She added that while her family plans to stay in Grand County, she worries about the district’s ability to attract new teachers.

“Especially young new teachers who are trying to settle into a community, who bring a lot of excitement and passion to the teacher career, (they) might not consider coming here because of the housing costs,” Lamont said. “Our salaries are not equitable to the housing costs.”

According to the coalition leading efforts in favor of the ballot measure, 22.7% of East Grand’s teachers are within five years of retirement. The group asserts that retaining and attracting high quality teachers rests on sufficient compensation.

While Creach wants remain in East Grand, other opportunities with better pay are tempting. Love of her job alone isn’t enough to keep her in Grand County.

“I want to stay for my job,” Creach explained. “I love teaching and there are children everywhere that need good, high quality, dedicated teachers — not just here in Grand County. That’s the big bottom line.”

The 4A ballot measure reads in full:

“Shall East Grand School District No. 2 taxes be increased $1 million annually with financially transparent expenditures to be publicly reported on the district’s website to provide funds to attract and retain quality teachers and staff through a property tax override mill levy to be imposed at a rate sufficient to produce the amount set forth above, to be in addition to the property taxes that would otherwise be levied for the general fund and to constitute a voter approved revenue change.”

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