Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Bond

This is the second post in our series on understanding why the Jeffco School Board is asking for a mill and bond this year. Today’s post focuses on 3B, the bond.

How did we get here?

First, we’ll remind you that funding – or lack thereof – has been the biggest challenge for a number of years. You may remember this graph:

NegativeFactorWithout the negative factor, Jeffco Schools would have received $481 million more from the state during the past five years. Instead, Jeffco has been making do with less, while simultaneously petitioning legislators to reduce the negative factor and put that money back into schools. In real terms, this means we’ve been deferring maintenance, and that backlog is growing.

In addition, although Jeffco home values are at an all-time high, the resulting increase in your property taxes has not increased Jeffco’s funding. Instead, the state puts more of those taxes into schools, but then takes an equal amount of state funds to use elsewhere in the budget, as you can see in the graph below.

StateLocalfundingMill levy override funds are different. They stay in Jeffco and lead to increased per-pupil funding.

In 2012, we passed a $99 million bond to address the most urgent facilities needs like new roofs, HVAC systems and more. Those needs have been addressed — on time and within budget — but they only fixed Jeffco’s Tier 1 needs. We still had hundreds of millions of dollars of Tier 2-5 needs for our schools and facilities, and even more urgent maintenance issues have built up in the last four years.

Part of the issue is that our schools are, on average, 45 years old. Plumbing, roofs, HVAC systems, windows, fire alarm systems, and more are aging and need to be replaced. Every single school in Jeffco needs some sort of maintenance.

You’ve probably also read that Jeffco Schools was testing for lead in school pipes recently. They found lead that exceeded federal standards in about 8 percent of the fixtures tested so far. Jeffco Schools is now taking steps to fix this, but it’s another indication that our schools are aging, and we need funding that can adequately address these critical maintenance issues.

What will the bond do?

  • Upgrade old schools with updated security systems
  • Provide new schools in areas where Jeffco is growing. Our school district has not had a bond to fund new construction since 2004 when voters approved a $323.8 million bond.
  • Allow the district to address the repair backlog of leaky roofs, faulty wiring and more by improving, updating, and repairing 110 schools, including updating technology and lab spaces.
  • Renovate and construct additions at 45 schools and facilities to add more classroom space
  • Replace four current aging facilities
  • Construct three new elementary schools.

You can read more about the bond outline here and read the final facilities master plan here.

Want to know how your school will benefit? Jeffco Schools has an interactive web page that allows you to access information about your child’s school, schools in your neighborhood, and schools that you might be considering in the future.

This is also a good time for the district to consider a bond. Bond interest rates are some of the lowest we’ve seen in the last several decades, making this a cost-effective time to borrow.

We’ve also heard people asking why we can’t just convince the state to provide more funding. The short answer is that we’ve petitioned our legislators to do just that for many years, session after session, and it’s not happening. Superintendents around the state have advocated, as in this 2014 letter.

This year, the superintendents sent another letter, and a rally was held at the state capitol where superintendents and school supporters alike filled the room to show support. This writer was at that rally. It didn’t work.

Eagle Schools Superintendent Jason Glass summarized the issue nicely in a recent column: 

To make a long story short, this “negative factor” cuts nearly $1 billion from Colorado’s schools annually and accounts for an accumulated $40 million in cuts to [Eagle County schools] alone.*

I’d like to say that Colorado is on its way toward restoring these cuts. Alas, the cavalry is not on the way from the state. The plain, cold reality is that without a local solution, our schools will never return to pre-recession levels.

*JCSBW note: that amount is about $80 million per year in Jeffco, for an accumulated $481 million in cuts so far.

What we can — and must — do is create our own solutions. In Jeffco, the cost is reasonable: $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year to fund our school facilities and programming, and protect our home values.

We can support our Jeffco students by providing safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can make sure our Jeffco Schools continue to be some of the best in the area. We can make a better future for our students and our community.

3A3B

Also don’t forget to head over to Support Jeffco Schools to volunteer to help the Yes on 3A/3B campaign if you haven’t already.

JeffCo Proud!

 

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Mill Levy Override

3A3B

This fall, we’re going to post a series of articles explaining the basics of the mill levy override and bond, 3A and 3B, so you can understand how the board members came to their decisions. We support both measures.

Today, we’d like to spell out the basics of 3A, the mill levy override.

Funding — or lack thereof —is the primary driver. The short version is that state funding is a big challenge. Due to the negative factor, Jeffco Schools has received $481 million less from Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted.

NegativeFactor

Jeffco is also not receiving any of the marijuana money that was budgeted. That’s going to other districts, mostly small and rural, for facility maintenance and construction.

Several forecasts also suggest Jeffco Schools could be facing more cuts for 2017-18. If that happens, 3A dollars will be used first to backfill those cuts and maintain programs.

The mill levy override, 3A, would provide an additional $33 million in funding that would benefit all Jeffco Schools: neighborhood, option, and charter.

It will be split so that Jeffco neighborhood and options schools receive $29.7 million, and charter schools receive 10 percent, $3.3 million. Those numbers mirror the percent of Jeffco students enrolled in neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

If state funding remains stable, the $33 million will be used to expand learning opportunities, update security, and to retain and attract excellent teachers. Here’s what the board prioritized in their meetings this summer:

  • $12.6 million – compensation to retain and recruit excellent teachers
  • $3.7 million – mental health support for schools, including a half-time counselor at every elementary school
  • $800,000 – additional support for security and emergency management, including increasing personnel, supporting ongoing crisis prevention and intervention training programs, support supplies, and software purchases
  • $12.2 million – increased Student Based Budgeting funding in all schools, including extra support for small schools who are challenged by the current SBB process. This will allow schools the flexibility to enhance education for their students.
  • $400,000 – increased support services, like the additional custodians and supplies that will be needed when the new schools open, and additional district building techs
  • The remaining $3.3 million will go to charter schools, whose boards will decide how to allocate the funds to enhance teaching, programming, and more.

You can read more about the mill levy override priorities here and read the full ballot text here.

Together, 3A and 3B will cost $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year.

We’ve waited a long time for state funding to bounce back after the economy recovered. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s not going to happen.

Now we have a choice. We can create our own solutions and vote to support our Jeffco students in safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can vote to provide funding that allows us to attract and retain excellent teachers. We can make a difference.

Vote yes on 3A and 3B, and remember to tell your friends. Spreading the word on your social media of choice also helps, so please share this post.

We’d also like to remind everyone that the Yes on 3A and 3B campaign need volunteers to help in the coming weeks, as well as donations to help pay for signs and other campaign materials. If you can help, please head over to the Support Jeffco Schools website and sign up there.

Jeffco Proud!

Jeffco Schools mill & bond will be on November ballot

Our original post noted that the increase would be $3.50 per $100,000 assessed value. That number was based on previous projections, so we’ve corrected the numbers in this post to reflect what was approved on Tuesday night: $4.12 per $100,000.

On Tuesday, the Jeffco School Board approved a motion to put the mill and bond on the November ballot. The ballot question will ask voters to approve a bond package totaling $535 million dollars, and a mill levy override of $33 million.

Your Childs Education

Also note that we’ve seen some suggestions that this is a “billion dollar bond,” mostly from groups that have struggled in the past to grasp basic math concepts about the Jeffco Schools budget. This is a $535 million bond — just over half a billion — to address aging facilities and fund new construction.

Our friend Tina Gurdikian sent out a newsletter about the topics, and agreed to let us reprint it to explain more about the mill and bond. We’ve cut some portions that refer to the then-upcoming Tuesday meeting.

“Architects of Our Own Solutions” – Jeffco BOE Treasurer, Brad Rupert said this at tonight’s board meeting and I jotted it down ’cause I thought – that pretty much sums it up for me too. We can’t sit back and wait for the state to come through with the funding we need to provide an education for our kiddos that prepares them to be college/career ready. It’s way too late for that, and it just simply isn’t going to happen. Since 2009, when the “negative factor” was implemented, Jeffco Schools have missed out on ~$490 MILLION – and we don’t see an end to the negative factor any time soon, unfortunately. So what are we going to do about it? We are going to be architects of our own solutions!!

Here are a few of the details of the proposed bond issue:

  • This is an “extremely favorable interest rate environment” – meaning we can get an excellent interest rate. Typically when you buy a home, you’re told that the actual principal/interest you’ll pay over the life of your loan is 2-3 times the cost of the home. Jeffco can get a rate such that our principal/interest payments are less than 2 times the principal for a term of 25 years.
  • This would be a $535M bond with a maximum principal/interest repayment of $987.22M – with a not-to-exceed annual principal/interest payment of $72.6M annually in any given year.
  • Essentially we are looking at 4 primary priorities with this bond package:
    • Priority 1 – K-5, 6-8 grade reconfiguration
    • Priority 2 – growth and/or equity
    • Priority 3 – efficiencies
    • Priority 4 – deferred maintenance
  • What do these priorities mean exactly? You can see the breakout of the proposed capital improvement projects by area and school here so you can see the direct impacts to your children’s schools.

What about the $33M mill levy override? The mill levy override (MLO) is an annual increase to address operational needs (as a result of the negative factor and decreased funding in per pupil revenue from the state), whereas the bond addresses capital/facilities needs. Page 4 gives a great description of the needs to be addressed by the MLO, but I’ll sum up:

  • $12.6M – to retain and attract the best and brightest teachers, administrators and staff
  • $3.7M (this is something I feel so strongly about) – to provide a half-time counselor for every elementary school
  • $800K – for security and emergency management
  • $12.2M – increase student-based budgeting (SBB) dollars to schools, especially smaller school hit the hardest by SBB.
  • $400K – additional support services needed for the new school at Candelas
  • $3.3M – charter school dollars for compensation, curriculum, technology, etc. (10% of the MLO)

So what does this mean for you and your bottom line? Support Jeffco Kids broke it down for us. Per $100,000 of assessed home value, this bond package and MLO – combined – would cost you…$4.12/month. That’s right – if you’re home’s value is $300,000, you’re looking at an increase of $12.36 month.

This is how I, personally, see this. Our daughters swim. A lot. And if your child has ever been on a swim team, you know that breakfast burritos are what EVERYONE eats at a swim meet – considering these crazy summer meets start with warm-ups at 6am! Our team sells burritos for $3.50 each. So to me, it’s like buying a few breakfast burritos a month, right? Are my kids worth it? Heck yeah!

Are your kids worth it? Heck yeah! Remember, it takes a village to raise a child – we are all in this together – whether you have kids or grandkids or none at all, the value of excellent public schools is priceless for a community! Seriously!

Support Jeffco Kids has been really busy this summer. Please check out the following articles they’ve published recently, which shed additional light on some of the issues around the need for the mill/bond:

Lead Contamination?

While I’m talking about facilities needs, let me touch on the other topic of discussion at tonight’s board meeting – contaminated drinking water. Jeffco staff have been very busy this summer testing fixtures in our schools for lead contamination.

Since June 3, the district has tested 80 elementary schools and drawn ~3,500 samples in an effort to ensure drinking water in our schools is safe for our students, staff and parents. By the time school starts, all elementary school fixtures in buildings built before 1990 and all water fountains in elementary schools built after 1990 will have been tested.

Any fixtures found to exceed the 15 parts per billion EPA limit for Lead will be deactivated or labeled “Do Not Drink” depending on the level of Lead detected. While testing of middle and high school fixtures will not be complete by the start of the school year, district staff will work with principals to get the word out to parents to let them know the status of the testing. Bottled water may be provided at older facilities where fixtures have a greater probability of higher Lead levels.

Again, just another example of the types of maintenance district staff face with our aging facilities. 

 

We’ve waited long for additional state money, and it’s not coming. Jeffco needs to find its own solutions to long-deferred maintenance issues and so much more.

 

Let’s continue to be

JeffCo Proud! Keep fighting, JeffCo!

Special Jeffco BOE meetings: July 28 & August 2

UpdateDear readers,

It’s hard to believe it’s almost August—which means it’s time for the Jeffco School Board members to start making decisions about a mill and bond issue for the November ballot.

They are holding two special meetings to gather public input on a mill and bond:

  • Thursday, July 28, 5:30 pm
  • Tuesday, Aug. 2, 5:30 pm

Thursday’s meeting is your first opportunity to comment on the proposed mill and bond and it will be followed a board discussion about potential ballot language and priorities for a $33 million mill levy override would fund and a $535 million bond package. If you want to sign up to speak on July 28, follow this link.

The Aug. 2 meeting will also allow the community to comment and ask questions, and will be followed by a vote to approve the ballot language. Public comment signup for that meeting will open on Thursday morning.

At issue is this ugly reality: state budget cuts. Jeffco has received $481 million less from Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted during the last five years, and more budget cuts are projected. Despite this, we need to support our students and teachers in safe, well-maintained schools.

Jeffco Schools staff started to look for solutions this spring when they put together a proposed master plan, some of which aims at creating facility efficiencies to free up money for classrooms. Staff then presented the plan at multiple community meetings and gathered feedback late this spring. That community feedback was incorporated into the plan and informed the priorities for the proposed bond package.

At those meetings, two messages were very clear:

  • Jeffco values its small neighborhood schools and wants to avoid closures or consolidations
  • The community is open to the idea of moving to K-5, 6-8 configurations to free up space in already-crowded elementary schools, but the new reconfiguration needs to be implemented district-wide.

The revised plan, and proposed bond, prioritizes these issues.

We’ll write more in the coming days, but for now, please keep these issues in mind:

  • The 2012 bond fixed the most urgent repair needs to keep our students warm, safe and dry, and did so within budget. However, continuing state budget cuts have caused a growing backlog of repairs, including leaky roofs, faulty wiring, and out-dated fire alarms.
  • The average Jeffco Schools building is 45 years old. Replacing dated and inefficient HVAC systems, boilers, and plumbing could save the district tens of thousands of dollars on utility bills.
  • Jeffco must continue to attract and retain excellent teachers, and continue the district’s commitment to high academic standards and accountability — but when other districts pay as much as 19 percent more, we’re quickly losing our ability to be competitive.
  • We must provide students the skills and technology necessary to prepare them for 21st-century jobs.
  • We must address the growing mental health needs in our schools with more counselors and in-school mental health programs.

We urge you to please attend the July 28 or August 2 meeting to tell the Jeffco School Board what you will support so they can make an informed decision. They want and need to hear from us.

And as always, you can stream the meeting: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Jeffco Proud!

 

 

What you need to know for the 6.16.16 BOE meeting

The World Is Run By Those Who Show UpThe Jeffco School Board met on Tuesday to talk about feedback regarding the proposed facilities master plan and give direction to the staff. It was a 7-hour meeting and nearly impossible to briefly summarize, but we’ll do our best.

Why do you need the summary? Because they’re going to vote on these items tonight at 5:30 pm. You can sign up for public comment, and we encourage you to do so if you have strong feelings about any of these items.

Tuesday’s meeting started with a review of TABOR, led by a representative from the Colorado State University Colorado Futures Center. You can look at the presentation here, but the long and short of it is that TABOR has negatively impacted school funding and in districts like Jeffco, taxpayers are now paying more taxes to fund schools than they would have if TABOR hadn’t been enacted. In addition, our schools are being funded at lower levels than they would have otherwise.

Then board members dived into the meat of the discussion: directions for staff regarding the proposed Facilities Master Plan. Two main points stand out:

  1. There is support for moving to a K-5, 6-8 model, but only if it’s done across the district at the same time. Feedback indicated that the community was open to a district-wide change, and board members largely indicated they would support it as well. Staff adjusted the plan accordingly, and with the exception of Jefferson and Alameda, the new plan reflects a K-5, 6-8 configuration, with additions or new buildings planning for that configuration as well.
  2. Board members are very reluctant to close any schools yet, though they are also concerned about balancing budget concerns with the budget challenges posed by smaller schools in aging buildings. Most wanted to see the district work with the school, perhaps to offer programming that might draw kids from the neighborhood back, or to do other work to otherwise give them a chance to grow again.
  3. Budget projects for the future are concerning and funding cuts may be on the way. Jeffco’s lobbyist told the board earlier that he thought funding that reflected inflation + enrollment would be an “optimistic” projection. As a result, the desire to be proactive and financially efficient while also meeting the needs of learning communities is a central point of this conversation.

A few other notes: according to Jeffco’s Communications Director, Diana Wilson, about 800 people participated in the 12 community forums and about 1,100 participated in the telephone town halls. She also pointed out the questionnaire was only to solicit input. (Also note that her department was posting all of the feedback they received, usually shortly after receiving it, and those should all be available for the public to review on the Jeffco Schools facilities master plan page.)

Now, the play-by-play, in an abbreviated fashion.

The board first talked about the proposed K-5, 6-8 configuration. Opportunities include the opportunity for sixth graders to have more access to clubs, electives, advanced math, access to teachers with degrees in math for struggling students, science classrooms, more art, music, theater, and more opportunities that better reflect the “whole child” concept in the Jeffco 20/20 plan.

Concerns include budgets and social readiness, among others. However, staff is recommending a two-year transition plan that would start with a school’s 4th grade students and families. That would allow families time to think about choice enrollment and also allow schools time to plan for what their budget will look like as a K-5 school.

Specific dates for grade reconfiguration weren’t mentioned, though the two-year transition plan suggests that the earliest date for reconfiguration would be 2018-19. If the reconfiguration is to roll out district-wide, that could be even later, since some of the middle schools would require an addition in order to fully accommodate the 6th graders. Terry Elliot mentioned a “rolling implementation,” though board members said they didn’t want to see “piecemeal” reconfigurations.

Student-based budgeting concerns were also addressed. The short version is that SBB models would continue to be flexible. The current model works best with schools of about 500 students and is problematic with elementary schools under 300 students; however, both Superintendent McMinimee and board members made it clear that they didn’t want to see schools negatively impacted. McMinimee said those numbers might change, and that the district might nee to find additional money in other places, perhaps from efficiencies in the district level or a mill levy override, to put additional dollars into SBB.

Board members were especially interested in hearing about how details like art, music, and PE teachers would be accommodated if schools lost a grade, and making sure that elementary schools don’t take a hit with the new reconfiguration. Ron Mitchell accurately noted that the devil is in the details, and that a lot of work will need to be done to make sure we’re not leaving 6th graders in limbo.

Amanda Stevens also asked how this change would affect schools in the Jefferson and Alameda areas that adopted a K-6, 7-12 model last year. The short answer is that those schools would maintain that configuration. There are no plans to move 6th graders to the 7-12 schools.

Here’s the area-by-area breakdown of BOE recommendations. We’re only noting the areas where board members disagreed with current staff recommendations or areas where the staff specifically asked for directions from the board.

  • Alameda

The board wants to keep both Patterson and Kendrick Lakes open, and recommended deferred maintenance for Patterson and a new 576 seat K-5 school for Kendrick Lakes.

  • Arvada

The board agreed with the staff’s new proposal to add six classrooms to Arvada K-8 so that all schools in the area could reconfigure to K-5, 6-8. Brad Rupert also said that Foster had specifically requested the opportunity to stay a K-6 school because of their dual-language program, and the board appeared open to that recommendation as well.

  • Arvada West

The board recommended keeping both Allendale and Campbell open, though this also presents challenges due to space limitations at one site and low enrollment at the other. Allendale’s capacity is 275, and Campbell’s is 365.

Amanda Stevens wanted to hear more about pathways to keeping the small schools sustainable. Ali Lasell wanted to make sure that closures are a last resort, done only after we’ve exhausted all other options. Brad Rupert also expressed concerns that those areas could start growing again as new families move into the area.

Deferred maintenance or a major renovation (though not addition) are possibilities for Campbell. Deferred maintenance, a new school, a major renovation or even an addition could be possibilities at Allendale. The board needed to know more numbers, but was pretty clear that they’re not ready to close schools yet.

  • Bear Creek

The board was comfortable with cabinet recommendations, though they suggested a new Green Gables School might be a better option than a renovation.

  • Chatfield

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Columbine

The board wanted to see more deferred maintenance done on Dutch Creek to make the school more competitive with its neighbors.

  • Conifer

OK with cabinet recommendations, though noted that Conifer HS is the only high school without an auditorium and that the addition of one is an equity item.

  • Dakota Ridge

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Evergreen

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Golden

Not willing to close Pleasant View yet. “Closing a school to me is a last resort, and it is a last resort after we have exhausted all efforts,” Lasell said.

  • Green Mountain

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Jefferson

Of note: a phased rebuild is proposed for Jefferson High School. Other suggestions included something like Warren Tech “East” offerings in the area for students.

  • Lakewood

The board recommends keeping Glennon Heights open and considering a boundary change from a nearby school that’s currently over capacity.

  • Pomona

The Little/Parr consolidation also met with a fair amount of discussion. Board members aren’t willing to close either school yet, in part because this is another area that might see growth in the next few years.

Parr attracts a number of students who live just across the street from the Jeffco boundary (in Westminster 50), for whom Parr is a much closer school. Parr also has approximately 100 preschool students. Little has more students and a vocal community that wants to keep that site open as well.

The board’s preference seems to be to keep both school open and build a new 576-seat school at the Parr site, which is a larger site that allows the district to build while keeping students in the current school during construction.

  • Ralston Valley

There was a question about whether an additional high school is needed, but the answer is no, not until there were enough new feeder schools to fill it. They also recommend keeping the proposed Leyden Rock school a priority for phase I.

  • Standley Lake

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Wheat Ridge

Here again, the board was reluctant to close any schools yet. Current recommendations are that Kullerstrand stays open and Prospect Valley gets a new school. The board was also in favor of keeping Vivian and Stober open, though those sites present some challenges. Among them: Stober students may need to go offsite for a year in order to renovate or build a new building.

  • Options Schools

Long View will have deferred maintenance for now, and they’ll begin longer discussions about that site in the fall.

 

The last discussion was about a potential mill levy override. Staff presented a list of funding priorities. The first was a potential backfill if the state does in fact cut funding in the next year or two. However, several possibilities were also listed for what the new funding could bring (assuming state funding remains stable):

  • mental health support for schools
  • security and emergency management
  • student-based budget (suggested at $200/student/year)
  • technology
  • compensation
  • charter school needs (note: charters will get full share of the mill levy override automatically; this would be an additional amount above that specifically dedicated to charter school needs)
  • activities and athletics
  • fees (athletics, Outdoor Lab, transportation)
  • full day kindergarten
  • support services

Tonight’s meeting starts at 5:30 pm in the Board Room. If you can’t be there, you can stream the meeting. We know these are big decisions, so we hope to see a lot of you there and voicing your opinion. If you think Jeffco should go ahead with a mill levy override on the ballot, board members need to know that. They also need to know what you would support (or wouldn’t support) as funding priorities.

If you think they need to stick to just asking for a bond to support construction, tell them. If you are concerned about one of the schools that was suggested for closure, be sure to tell them. There are big decisions and challenges ahead, and board members need to hear your voices to know how best to move forward.

Jeffco Proud!