3A & 3B – How You Can Help (Thank you!!)

Because we have such a far-reaching list of followers, we wanted to dedicate a post to how you can help the Jeffco Schools mill and bond campaignYes on 3A & 3B.

Canvassing

Also known as door-knocking, canvassing is one of the most important and effective ways of reaching voters – especially the 70+% who aren’t associated directly with Jeffco schools. It’s simple – you just walk from home to home in designated neighborhoods talking to people about the importance of 3A & 3B for Jeffco students.

You can sign up to walk in your neighborhood and others throughout Jeffco. It’s even better when you walk with a friend. Training and all materials are provided.

Information Tables

Another great way to help is by volunteering at a school or library information table. Again, all materials are provided. You simply pass out campaign information and answer any basic questions people may have. You don’t have to be an expert – it is always OK to offer to have the campaign chair – Bill Bottoms – or one of the campaign co-chairs – Frank DeAngelis, Angela Geier or Chris Webber – get back to interested voters. To help with a school information table, contact one of these amazing area chairpeople:

Support Jeffco Kids is also arranging information tables at area libraries. You can sign up here to help with that effort.

Easy, Free Publicity

Feeling artistic? Help paint car windows with 3A & 3B messages. Or, help pass out 3A & 3B campaign literature at area events. Contact Melissa at melissa@monoski.com for more information.

Campaign Presentation

Arrange to have someone from the campaign speak at your next Garden Club meeting, HOA meeting, Book Club or other gathering. Contact Melissa at melissa@monoski.com to schedule.

PTA Advocacy

Vital funding to upgrade security and technology, keeping quality teachers in the classroom and ensuring students have the necessary skills for college and the workforce – all benefits of 3A & 3B and all reasons why Jeffco PTA endorsed the two ballot measures. For information on how to get your school to add its name to the growing list of PTAs endorsing the mill and bond, contact Katie Winner at Katie.Winner@nyu.edu.

Yard Signs

Display a yard sign (here’s where you can get one). And, if you are or know the owner of a parcel of land or a business where a “Yes on 3A/3B” banner would be seen by many Jeffco voters, please email Suzanne Adams at spavelka74@yahoo.com.

Meet with Board Members

Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education members are hosting community forums this fall so you can talk with them about current happenings in our school district. They’ll share updates on topics such as Jeffco 2020, budget, and the mill and bond ballot initiatives and you’ll have plenty of time for questions and discussion:

  • 9/28, 6-7pm – Wheat Ridge High School Library
  • 10/10, 6-7pm – Bear Creek High School Library
  • 10/11, 6-7pm – Columbine High School Library
  • 10/17, 6-7pm – Pomona High School Library
  • 10/25, 6-7pm – Evergreen Firehouse

Bottom Line

Our community has accomplished amazing things when we’ve all come together for an important cause. A very sincere thank you from all of us here at Jeffco School Board Watch to all of you for anything and everything you can do to help Jeffco pass the mill and bond November 8.

3A3B

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Big Year for Mill & Bond Elections

Continuing our series on why the Jeffco School Board is asking for a mill and bond this year, today’s post focuses on the bigger picture — what other districts are doing to address Colorado’s education funding shortage.

We’ll give you a hint – ballot measures for mill levy overrides and bonds are on the ballot in more than 50 districts around our state. Denver, Aurora and Jeffco combined are seeking over $1.4 billion in bonds alone, and across the state, school funding ballot initiatives top $4 billion.

One big factor: our state’s “negative factor,” which says the state can give schools less funding than actually mandated by Colorado’s school funding formula. The Colorado School Finance Project believes this approach has plummeted Colorado’s per-pupil spending to 40th in the US, when we should be closer to 28th if the negative factor funds were actually given to our school districts. Without this funding, school districts across Colorado struggle to offer competitive salaries and maintain their buildings.

Here in Jeffco, hiring salaries are below the average of the five most comparable nearby districts – sometimes as much as 16% lower. In the last few years, Jeffco’s teacher turnover has steadily risen,  and our current school board has made it clear that they want Jeffco to be the first choice for the best teachers.

This year, our board used one-time dollars to provide modest pay increases for employees. That compensation level can only continue if the mill levy override passes.

The 3A mill dollars will also ensure increased mental health support for schools, increased security, increased Student Based Budgeting funding for all schools, increased support services, and equitable allocations to all charter schools. This ensures Jeffco students will receive the education necessary to prepare them for college and careers. And these dollars will stay in Jeffco.

Jeffco also has significant and growing maintenance and improvement needs at its 155 schools. Should the bond pass, 110 schools will receive much-needed improvements, technology updates, repairs and lab upgrades. Additionally, 45 schools and facilities will receive long-overdue renovations and additions, including new classroom space – something that has not been added since the 2004 bond passed. And, four schools will be replaced and three new elementary schools built.

Some are asking why maintenance on existing schools has been deferred so long. Quite simply, funding has fallen far short of the level it needs to be to offer competitive salaries and maintain schools. Funding has been so inadequate that Jeffco has fallen farther behind our neighboring districts in compensation while also deferring growing maintenance needs in order to protect funds going to classrooms.

Jeffco is not alone in this funding crisis – which is why we see 50 districts around our state asking voters to approve additional resources  Of the seven largest districts in Colorado, six have funding initiatives on the November ballot.

Jeffco, with 86,000 students, is asking for a total of $568 million – and has not had money to spend on new square footage in schools since 2004. That’s 12 years!

Denver, with more than 90,000 students, is asking for $628 million – that’s on top of the nearly $1 billion Denver voters have already approved over the past 8 years.

Cherry Creek has about 55,000 students, and is asking voters to approve $273.9 million in new funding. Cherry Creek voters also approved $150 million four years ago.

Aurora, with about 42,000 students, hopes voters will approve $350 million.

Boulder, with about 31,000 students, has reached funding caps, but can ask voters for an additional $10 million under the newly passed Debt Free Schools Act.

Rounding out the seven largest districts, Adams 12 Five Star, with just under 40,000 students, hopes for an additional $350 million, and Douglas County, with nearly 67,000 students, is still considering options.

For our visual learners, here’s a table comparing the ballot measures of several districts. 2016 Mill Bond Comparisons

2016 Mill Bond Comparisons Graphic1

2016 Mill Bond Comparisons Graphic2
This November, communities across our state will be asked to shore up their local schools to ensure the best education and opportunities for their students.
Poudre School District Board President Cathy Kipp speaks for all these communities when she writes,
The alternative to this plan is not pretty. It involves expensive temporary solutions, which come straight out of the school district’s general fund and negatively impact the education of all our students. This is the way schools are built and maintained in Colorado, by the will of our voters.
Here in Jeffco, voting Yes on 3A/3B will mean safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. It will mean ensuring our Jeffco Schools continue to be some of the best in the area. It will mean a better future for our students and our community.

3A3B

To volunteer to help the Yes on 3A/3B campaign, visit Support Jeffco Schools. And please pass along this information so more voters have the facts.

JeffCo Proud!

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!