2 thoughts on “2016 Mill Bond Comparisons Graphic1

  1. I’m not sure if I understand this correctly. Why is the state not funding our schools adequately? If it’s up to local districts to make up the shortfall, then we will end up with a situation where wealthier districts will have the best schools.

    • The short answer is that the state isn’t funding any of the school districts adequately. Every school district is affected by the “negative factor,” which is the loophole the state uses to not fully fund schools according to the rules of the School Finance Act and Amendment 23, which voters approved in 2000. Amendment 23 requires the state to increase K-12 funding by inflation plus 1 percent for ten years (2001-2011) and by inflation after that. But then the recession hit and there wasn’t enough money. Enter the negative factor, which is essentially a loophole created so that the state doesn’t have to fund schools as Amendment 23 intended. Jeffco loses about $80 million per year to the negative factor, and all other Colorado districts take a proportional hit too.

      Everyone had hoped that the legislature would find a way to lower the negative factor for 2016-17 and include that in school funding, but it didn’t happen. You may remember receiving a small TABOR refund when you did your taxes. TABOR is too complicated for this space, but the brief version is that it has a “ratchet-down” effect that generally prevents inflation-adjusted per-capita spending from returning to pre-recession levels. In 2016 that meant that although the state could have received more money and sent that off to schools, they were instead required to return some of it to taxpayers in the form of the small tax refund everyone received. Meanwhile, school funding remained flat.

      Great Education Colorado has more details about it here: http://www.greateducation.org/statistics-faqs/funding-faqs/amendment-23/

      In recent years, one of the key factors in local funding has been whether the voters have been willing to approve more mill levy override funds. Those stay in the district. Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Denver have been most successful at getting mills approved, and that extra money ($2,125, $1,547, and $1,608 per pupil, respectively) makes a big difference. Douglas County, on the other hand, is the wealthiest district in the state and country (7th wealthiest nationally in 2013), but it has only approved $504 in mill levy overrides for its students. It has been willing to approve more bonds, however, likely due to all of the new construction in that area.

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