State Funding vs. Property Taxes: Why We Need 3A and 3B

Have you found yourself thinking about how your property taxes were higher this year and wondering why school districts across Colorado, including Jeffco Schools, are asking for more money in mill and bond requests like 3A and 3B?

We have answers. Read on!

Believe it or not, both of these things are true:

  1. Property taxes in Jeffco increased due to increased home values in the area.
  2. State school funding remained largely flat.

In Jeffco, state funding for the 2016-17 year increased 1.2 percent over 2015-16 funding, as reported in Jeffco’s 2016-17 Dollars and Sense brochure. Inflation, however, has been measured at 2.8 percent on the Front Range and is predicted to be at 2.6 percent this year.

When we say state funding has remained “largely flat” what we mean is that sometimes — such as this year–it isn’t even keeping up with inflation, which means less money for classrooms, for maintaining facilities, and for keeping pay competitive.

What’s worse is that even though the housing market is booming and taxes are up, the Denver Post reported last month that 2017-18 budget cuts may be on the way:

Colorado’s state budget faces a potential deficit this fiscal year, economic forecasters told state lawmakers Tuesday, as tax revenues continue to fall short of previous expectations.

If true, that would mean cuts to K-12 funding for 2017-18, and potentially mid-year cuts this year.

Let’s repeat that: despite a booming economy and increased property taxes, Jeffco Schools could see mid-year budget cuts this year.

That was the news a week ago. A few days ago Chalkbeat report Nic Garcia tweeted that the state budget chief now thinks that won’t happen. However, we won’t know more until the budget forecast is released at the beginning of November.

Here’s how school funding can remain flat even though your taxes increased:

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It’s pretty simple: the state uses more of your local taxes to fund your schools and decreases their share to use elsewhere in the budget. Mill levy override funds, on the other hand, aren’t part of the equation. All money from 3A and 3B stays in Jeffco and puts additional money in all our schools — charter, option, or neighborhood — and does so equitably. All students benefit.

Money from 3A becomes part of the operating budget; money from 3B is specifically for facilities, including capital maintenance, new construction, and school additions.

This chart that shows Jeffco’s state funding for the past several years. Note that 2016-17 funding is a mere $167 more than it was in 2009-2010.

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If state funding was keeping up with inflation, our students should be receiving $7,956 this year — $719 more than actual funding levels.

That’s why school funding needs a grassroots effort — in this case, 3A and 3B.

This graphic shows the difference that mill levy override funding makes for students. Boulder and Denver voters have approved many more 3A dollars for their students, which means their districts have more dollars for the classroom every year.

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Also, we’ve seen some crazy posts complaining that money from 3B isn’t being used to target student achievement. First, the law dictates that 3B money has to be used for facilities. Second, students learn better when they’re not being distracted by cold air from drafty windows, chilly classrooms from outdated HVAC systems, or water dripping into a bucket in their classroom because the leaky roof hasn’t been fixed. It’s just common sense.

A few other points:

1.  Yes, it would be nice if the state would get rid of the negative factor and restore that money to schools. But it hasn’t happened despite intense lobbying from Colorado’s superintendents, advocacy groups like Great Education Colorado, and individual citizens.

Instead, more cuts are predicted. Are we content to sit by and watch our school budgets get slashed again, or can we do better for our students? Our answer: by voting Yes on 3A and 3B Jeffco can do better.

2.  Marijuana money won’t dig us out of the funding hole. In fact, Jeffco isn’t receiving any pot tax. It isn’t and won’t help us with the current issues.

3.  Last, don’t forget that there is a cost to doing nothing in Jeffco. The leaky roofs won’t miraculously repair themselves. The cost to educate students and maintain our facilities won’t decrease if we choose to ignore it. We’ll talk about that more in another post.

Want one more reason? Watch Jeffco Economic Development Corporation Chair David Jones explain why the JEDC endorsed 3A 3B:

Please vote Yes on 3A and 3B, and then get those ballots in. Use this graphic to encourage others to vote by Nov. 8.

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JeffCo Proud!

3A and 3B: A Matter of Trust in Leadership

If you’re still on the fence about 3A and 3B, the Jeffco Schools’ mill and bond initiative, don’t underestimate the importance of leadership and trust for the current school board in your decision-making.

One year ago, the previous school board majority was ousted by huge margins in favor of a “Clean Slate.” Readers of Jeffco School Board Watch will remember vividly that our formation was closely tied to the shenanigans of the previous board majority. Simply put, they were untrustworthy. Yes, the three of them lived in Jeffco, but it was clear that they were answering to ideologues, and often outside interests, rather than to what the majority of the community was saying.

Fast forward to today: hasn’t it been refreshing that the new school board has been in the news…so little? The five “new” board members–Ron Mitchell, Amanda Stevens, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, and Susan Harmon–do in fact represent their communities, govern responsibly and cautiously-yet-boldly, and have restored a great measure of professionalism and trust to traditions of Jeffco Schools.

During the course of the year, they have done yeoman’s work quietly but thoughtfully rebuilding foundations of trust in the community. Complaints have been few. The bottom line is that they are doing their job with a level of seriousness and community engagement that we have come to expect of our district leaders.

Having shorn up the relationship with our hard-working teachers, parents, and taxpayers, now they are asking for the community to reinvest in the schools again. They recognize that Jeffco’s aging buildings are in real need of repair and updating if we are to remain a first class district. They realize that many of our best teachers have left, and are still tempted to leave, because of wage stagnation, especially relative to other neighboring districts.

Most of all, they see that Jeffco kids suffer the brunt of the state’s underfunding, not just through deteriorating facilities and underpaid teachers, but also through many other cuts and restrictions to enriching parts of their education, such as music and athletics programs, technology investments, and more.

The numbers and stories behind Jeffco 3A 3B ask make sense in and of themselves, but undergirding those reasons is that we trust this board and their leadership. They have worked hard, made the case to us, and we urge everyone to vote “Yes” on 3A and 3B, not to reward the board of education, but because the case they’ve made to the community has been sensible, clear, and inspiring.

JeffCo Proud!

3A and 3B – Keeping Jeffco Students Safe

JeffCo School Board Watch supports the Jeffco Schools’ mill and bond ballot initiatives, 3A and 3B. We see these measures as a critical second layer to the work begun last year with the recall.

Now that we have five school board members all working together in the best interest of Jeffco’s 86,000 students, we must ensure Jeffco has the necessary resources to prepare those students with 21st century skills for college and career.

Ballots began arriving this week. Please take time to ensure your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers have the facts about 3A and 3B. Issues 3A and 3B will be at the end of your ballot.

After you vote, start using this graphic in your social media profiles to encourage others to vote, too.

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Both 3A and 3B will improve the safety and security of Jeffco students and their learning environments. School safety plays a critical role in student success.

In fact, a recent study found that “significant gains in key measures of a school’s climate, like safety and academic expectations, can be linked to the equivalent of an extra month and a half of math instruction and, in some cases, a 25 percent reduction in teacher turnover.”

Measure 3A will increase school security resources, meaning additional counselors and student support professionals – both inside and outside the classroom, increased school safety education, and more liaisons to Jefferson County and area municipality police, sheriffs deputies, firefighters and 911 dispatch centers.

Measure 3B will upgrade aging Jeffco Schools with state-of-the-art security systems to ensure the district, its schools and its supporting law enforcement agencies can communicate in a timely, efficient manner in case of an emergency.

Jeffco places the highest value on providing safe, secure learning environments for its 86,000 students. On a daily basis, Jeffco Schools’ Security and Emergency Management Department utilizes industry best practices to protect Jeffco’s schools, and Jeffco Schools Executive Director of Safety, Security and Emergency Planning John McDonald is so highly regarded that he is one of the first people called when a major school tragedy occurs in the United States.

We encourage you to watch this video in which McDonald explains how 3A & 3B will will impact school safety in Jeffco by funding new security technology, window safety film that prevents an intruder from coming into a school, and funding new locks on classroom doors.

How does that impact Jeffco students?

A child that feels safe in school is a better educated student. They have higher test scores and better graduation rates. That’s our opportunity to make a difference.

Jeffco’s security experts ensure the district and each individual school all have security and school safety plans, that school staff undergo regular safety procedure training, and that schools are continually working to minimize security issues.

Interacting with nine law enforcement agencies, and 15 jurisdictions in three counties covering more than 800 square miles, Jeffco’s security professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and include patrol officers, emergency dispatchers, threat assessment professionals, emergency planning and critical response services. These are the people who ensure the safety and security of all Jeffco students, staff and visitors each and every day.

You can help get the mill and bond passed. Every donation helps the Yes on 3A and 3B campaign educate more voters. Remember, in the past we’ve seen outside organizations sending mailers with false information to Jeffco voters in the hopes of defeating our efforts. Invest in the campaign so Jeffco voters will invest in Jeffco students.

You can also help by walking door to door or calling voters. Pick up and display a yard sign, and print out a couple of these signs for your car windows.

From those of us at JeffCo School Board Watch – a huge thank you for dedicating some of your time and resources to getting 3A & 3B passed November 8!

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JeffCo Proud!

3A – Funding to Address Student Achievement, Whole Child

Less than one year ago, the Jeffco community came together to make a critical change to our school board. By a 2-1 margin, Jeffco voters made it clear that they wanted school board members who have Jeffco students’ best interests at heart.

We at JeffCo School Board Watch support the five new school board members’ decision to put a mill levy override and bond on this November’s ballot. We are pleased to see that funds from the mill, 3A, will be distributed equitably to benefit all of Jeffco’s 155 schools – including every neighborhood school, option school, and charter school.

Charter schools, which educate 10 percent of Jeffco’s students, will receive 10 percent of the mill. And that same equitable distribution will be true for all neighborhood and option schools in Jeffco.

Under the current school budget system, known as Student Based Budgeting (SBB), Jeffco’s schools have a small amount of discretionary money that allows them to choose the services, programming, and support that will most benefit their unique student population. The mill levy override will provide much-needed funds so that schools can fully afford choices that support student achievement while also nurturing the whole child.

Exciting options include more hands-on learning opportunities, enhanced and expanded art, music, career and technical education, as well as additional investment in and expansion of STEM – science, technology, math and engineering – programming.

Schools that only have a half-time librarian might use some of the discretionary money from 3A to pay for a full-time librarian, while other schools may choose to invest the dollars into a full-time counselor, math or reading interventionist, or additional hands-on opportunities for their students.

Jeffco’s 2020 Vision talks about what a successful graduate in the year 2020 will be able to do, and places a priority on providing all Jeffco students – from the youngest to those heading off to college or a career – the necessary educational experiences to achieve this vision.

Students need 21st century skills so they’re prepared for the jobs of the future. They need greater access to STEM, technology and hands-on experiences.

They need to hone their abilities when it comes to teamwork, critical thinking, strong math and science knowledge, and a strong reading and writing base. The Jeffco 2020 Vision also requires multiple pathways and differentiated learning supports based on student needs.

As a community, we rely on Jeffco students to become our future leaders. Issue 3A invests in Jeffco students’ future.

Our district needs your help to ensure voters have the facts so they can support this measure. Please donate to help the Yes on 3A & 3B campaign educate more voters.

We fully expect the ousted school board members and their cohorts to invest in mailers that distort the truth. By investing in the campaign, you can help  Jeffco voters understand the important of investing in Jeffco students.

The Yes on 3A and 3B campaign could also use your help walking door to door, or calling voters, or writing a letter to the editor.

Pick up and display a yard sign, and print out this sign for your car window.

After you vote, start using this graphic in your social media profiles to encourage others to vote, too.

img_7421Please join all of us at JeffCo School Board Watch as we work together to pass 3A and 3B November 8!

 

JeffCo Proud!

Myth-Busting the Jeffco Schools 3B Bond

As we’ve explained in previous posts, voters are being asked to approve mill levy override and bond issue on this fall’s ballot, known as 3A and 3B. We’ve seen a lot of false statements by the anti-tax crowd that opposes it, so today we’d like to separate fact from fiction regarding the bond.

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Myth: 3B will increase the amount residents pay in property taxes in 15 years.

Fact: This bond is structured like recent previous bonds, such as those in 2004. It is a 25-year bond and the financial piece has been organized to make sure the burden to the taxpayers is consistent throughout the next 25 years.  

Those perpetuating the myth that the costs will go up have forgotten that Jeffco will pay off previous bonds during this time period, which will allow them to keep the cost to taxpayers the same, whether taxpayers are paying their taxes next year or in twenty.

Myth(s): Too much (or not enough) of the bond is being allocated to new schools. Too much (or not enough) of the bond is being allocated to Jeffco’s maintenance backlog. Too much (or not enough) of the bond will be used for additions to existing schools.

Fact: The bond balances the district’s need for new schools in growing areas of the county, with the ability to create efficiencies by adding classrooms to some existing buildings rather than construct entirely new schools.

The reality is that in some areas, more classrooms at an existing school will address our students’ needs, while in other areas — particularly those that were mere fields back in 2008 — need an entirely new school. All of our existing schools also have maintenance needs, and part of the bond will also be used to address the most critical needs.

Myth: All sorts of bond money will be wasted on fees and overruns.

Fact: Any good bond will be structured so that the projects in the bond won’t exceed the value of the bond.

If you’ve done any kind of major renovation of your house, you know that the initial cost estimate is just that: an estimate. The cost of construction materials alone has skyrocketed in Jeffco in the past years as building has boomed, and those costs also affect any construction and maintenance done to our schools.

If the bond didn’t include contingency dollars and the cost of supplies inflates even more, either the school would be forced to come back and ask for more money to complete the promised projects, or they’d have to tell certain communities, “sorry, we wanted to do that but we ran out of money.”

Structuring the bond to account for inflation and to make sure that projects will not exceed the bond amount is smart financial planning — and the reason that the Jeffco Schools Financial Oversight Committee encouraged the school board members to put 3A and 3B on the ballot.

Myth: This is a “billion dollar bond.”

Fact: This is a $535 million bond and calling it anything else is just plain silly.

A bond is a lot like a mortgage. Schools borrow the amount they need, and they pay it back with interest. If you borrow $80,000 for a mortgage, you call it an $80,000 mortgage even though you’ll pay much more than that with interest. 3B isn’t any different.

The district has typically included the entire payback amount in the ballot language. While we agree that the payback amounts are shocking to see (and for that matter, think that about car payments and our own mortgages too!), there’s nothing unusual here.

As a comparison, the 2012 ballot for the voter-approved $99 million warm, safe and dry bond read as follows:

SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S DEBT BE INCREASED $99 MILLION WITH A MAXIMUM REPAYMENT COST OF $195 MILLION OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY, AND SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S TAXES BE INCREASED $19.8 MILLION ANNUALLY OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY FOR THE PAYMENT OF SUCH DEBT …

Here’s the language in this fall’s ballot:

SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S DEBT BE INCREASED $535 MILLION WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF $987.22 MILLION OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY, AND SHALL JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT R-1’S TAXES BE INCREASED $72.6 MILLION ANNUALLY OR SUCH LESSER AMOUNT AS MAY BE NECESSARY FOR THE PAYMENT OF SUCH DEBT….

Let’s compare them.

2012

  • $99 million bond
  • Total payment to not exceed $195 million

2016

  • $535 million bond
  • Total payment not to exceed $987.22 million.

The repayment is similar, except in 2016 the district is able to make a better deal thanks to low interest rates. If this bond was structured the same as the 2012 $99 million bond, it actually could have had a total payment that is $71.56 million more.

We’re no math whizzes, but we think saving more than $71 million by borrowing now is a pretty good deal.

The 3B bond is a strategic, thoughtful decision that will allow Jeffco to repair, update, and build well-maintained schools for our students. We encourage you to vote Yes on 3A and 3B and hope you will encourage others to do the same.

Have you voted yet? If not, remember that you can drop off your ballot at any of the county’s drop boxes, send it by mail (though use 2 stamps just to be on the safe side.

Every vote counts, and we hope you will support 3A and 3B. Please also help us get out the vote by encouraging others to turn in their ballot and then use this fabulous profile picture to encourage even more voters to turn their ballots in too. Thank you!

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JeffCo Proud!