With a mill levy override question on the November ballot, Woodland Park RE-2 school board of education directors are gearing up for some heavy-duty information dissemination.
At a district-Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Sept. 21, directors Carol Greenstreet and Bill Blackburn talked about school financing, budgets and why the school needs help from its community.
District Superintendent Jed Bowman explained that he can’t legally speak for or against the mill levy at anytime because he is always on the clock and that staff can only speak about it on their own time. School board directors are not on the district payroll, however, and can speak about the override anywhere and to anyone but must use their own resources to spread the word.
“A school district is like a business,” Blackburn said. “Our priorities are our students and to use your money wisely but I have watched as there has been cut after cut after cut.”
He said part of the problem is that the state has found ways to get around Amendment 23, the Colorado Funding for Public Schools Act that was approved by the voters in 2000. The amendment should have provided millions of dollars each year to fund public education.
“The state gives us (money) and then takes it away,” Blackburn said. “We’ve cut everywhere we can and we’ve lost some great older teachers through early retirement. That has helped our budget but we can expect cuts to continue for the next four to six years.”
Greenstreet pointed out that the district spends only 5 percent of its budget on administration.
Blackburn explained that, just like businesses, teacher salaries have been frozen for three years and that fees have gone up — families are being charged transportation fees and activity fees have doubled, he said.
“Budgets cuts (also) affect curriculum,” he said. “We have larger classes and need to keep our great teachers.”
If voters approve the mill levy, local school taxes will still be the lowest in the area and district teacher salaries will also remain the lowest in the area, Blackburn said.
“The mill levy keeps us where we are,” he said. “People have asked why we’re not asking for more but we’re already asking parents for more fees... (and) the more fees they pay to the schools, the less money they have to spend in the community. I don’t trust the state to give us back our money but the mill levy stays here and supports our schools.”
Greenstreet said that the board of education directors will be happy to talk to local groups about the mill levy override and the needs of the school district.
According to the website, www.citizensforwoodlandparkschools.com, the ballot question will ask for a $950,000 increase in property taxes for 2012 through an additional fixed 3.8 mill levy increase over the current mill levy amount. This amount will equate to approximately $2.50 per month for every $100,000 of home value. If voters approve it, the mill levy will be increased from 34.187 to 37.987 annually.
The site also compares local school taxes with taxes in other districts in the region and has a link to the state election division where citizens can register to vote online or update their voter information. The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 1 election is Oct. 3.