dropdown

Thirty-one Colorado school districts are seeking voter approval this year for a combined total of about $1.03 billion in bond issues and property tax increases for operating expenses.

Twenty-one districts have proposed bond issues; 14 of those are to raise local matches for state construction grants. Sixteen districts are seeking increases for operating funds. Seven districts are seeking both.

About $664 million of the total is accounted for by Denver and Jefferson County proposals for both bond issues and operating increases. Denver’s request for a $466 million bond issue is the largest in state history, surpassing the district’s successful request for a $454 million bond issue in 2008.

Denver also is seeking a $49 million operating-tax increase. And Jefferson County is seeking a combined $149 million for a bond issue and an operating increase.

The total of the 2012 proposed bond issues is about $877.5 million, including nearly $100 million in requests from the districts that need to raise matching money to win state Building Excellent Schools Today grants.

The proposals for operating increases total about $150.7 million. Most of those districts say they need to increase operating revenues to at least partly offset the state budget cuts of recent years. These increases are formally known as mill levy overrides and usually called overrides for short.

One district, Aspen, could gain $1.75 million in additional revenue under a proposed sales tax increase placed on the ballot by the Aspen City Council. School districts are prohibited from imposing sales taxes on their own, but some towns have shared revenue with districts in the past.

In a few cases, passage of proposals won’t increase taxes. Cherry Creek, for instance, is proposing a $125 million bond issue that would be paid for by extending the current tax rate.

Colorado voters have a long history of passing most school tax proposals, but the record has been mixed in the last two years of weak economic conditions. In 2011 and 2010, more than 30 districts proposed tax increases each year.

Last year, voters approved only $73 million of the more than $560 million proposed. But in 2010, voters approved $595.8 million in bonds and operating increases and rejected only $142.5 million worth.

Aurora Public Schools

The district is proposing measure 3C, a $15 million operating tax increase that Aurora officials say will be used to partly offset more than $70 million in state budget cuts over the last three years.

The money will be used for reading, writing, math, science and early childhood programs; classroom materials and technology; and maintaining staff.

District leaders estimate approval of the ballot measure would cost district homeowners an additional $5.71 a month or $68.52 per year for every $100,000 of home value.

More information

Media coverage of Aurora’s ballot measure

Cherry Creek School District

Voters in the southeast suburban district face two questions – a $25 million operating tax increase, or question 3A, and a $125 million bond issue, or question 3B.

District officials say the operating increase will be used to maintain class sizes, support curriculum and instruction, and enhance use of technology. Bond issue proceeds are to be used for STEM classrooms, renovations and additions around the districts, new technology, and safety and security.

It’s estimated the two proposals would cost the owner of an “average” home in the district an additional $8 a month in property taxes.

More information

Media coverage of Cherry Creek’s ballot measures

Greeley-Evans School District

Voters are being asked to vote on an $8.2 million bond issue to provide 28 percent of the cost of replacing 50-year-old John Evans School. The state’s Building Excellent Schools Today program would provide the rest of the funds for the project. Greeley is an alternate for BEST funding, so a finalist would have to lose its bond election to free up money for the district, which would have to pass its bond to remain eligible.

More information

Media coverage of Greeley bond issue

Sheridan School District

The district is making its second try in two years for a bond issue to match a state BEST grant. This year Sheridan is proposing a $6.5 million bond to earn a state grant of $23 million. The $13.7 million bond proposal, part of it for a BEST match and part of it for other projects, was defeated. This year’s plan would replace an early childhood center, renovate a middle school and demolish an older elementary school building.

More information

Media coverage of Sheridan ballot measure

St. Vrain Valley School District

The district is seeking a $14.8 million override to maintain staff compensation and to support technology and early childhood programs. The school board had considered a $16.8 million increase but decided to ask for a lower amount in light of economic conditions.

It’s estimated passage of measure 3A would increase taxes $4.16 a month per $100,000 of actual home value.

More information

Media coverage of St. Vrain ballot measure

Other districts on the ballot

Several other districts around the state are seeking voter approval of bond issues or operating tax increases. Here’s a rundown:

  • Alamosa – The district is proposing a $4.9 million bond to build a stadium, other athletic facilities and agricultural education facilities. Voters will decide two questions, one on new bonds and a second on refinancing of current bonds. Alamosa Valley Courier story.
  • Aspen – A .35 percent city sales-tax increase would provide an estimated $1.75 million for the district. Aspen Times story, Aspen Daily News story.
  • Bayfield – This district east of Durango is proposing an $11.9 million bond for building upgrades and technology and a $1.2 million override for personnel and technology costs. Durango Herald story.
  • Briggsdale – The Weld County district is proposing a $195,000 override to cover staff compensation and classroom materials.
  • Buena Vista – The district is proposing a $900,000 override plus a BEST bond issue (see below).
  • Cheyenne Re-5 – The district is seeking a $200,000 override for transportation and technology needs.
  • Del Norte – The San Luis Valley district is asking an $832,600 operating tax increase to restore budget cuts.
  • Fort Lupton – The district is seeking a $1.4 million override in addition to its BEST bond issue (see below).
  • Gilcrest – This district in Weld County is asking voters for a $9.9 million bond issue and a $1.8 million override.
  • Mancos – This southwestern Colorado district in Weld County is proposing a $276,000 override to offset expected future cuts in state support.
  • Plateau Valley – Voters are being asked to approve a $350,000 override for technology, instructional materials and building repairs.
  • Pueblo County – The district, which serves county areas outside the city of Pueblo, is seeking $59.9 million bond for safety and security projects, replacement of modular units and other work. District 70 voters rejected a $35 million bond and a $3.4 million override last year. District summary of proposal; Pueblo Chieftain stories – Sept. 9: District 70 officials redraft bond proposal after last year’s failure, Oct. 14: D-70 asking for $59.5 million bond and Oct. 15: D-70 focusing on facility and safety needs.
  • Stratton – The small eastern plains districts is asking voters for a $119,200 operating increase to restore budget cuts.
  • Telluride – Voters will decide a request for an $800,000 operating tax increase to be used for technology upgrades, experiential learning programs and implementation of a teacher evaluation system. Telluride Daily Planet story.

Other BEST elections

Passage of the Building Excellent Schools Together or BEST law in 2008 had the effect of creating a new type of bond election to raise local funds just to match state construction grants. In addition to Greeley and Sheridan, which are listed above, here are the districts seeking bond issues for BEST matches. Denver also is an alternate for BEST funds to renovate South High School.

  • Buena Vista – The district is seeking $4.4 million as it share of a $6.7 million project to replace the primary wing of the elementary.
  • Dolores – $3.5 million is the district’s portion of a $6 million project for various improvements at two schools.
  • Elbert 200 – The district needs to raise $2.9 million for its part of a $20.6 million project to build a new PK-12 school, replacing a 1936 building.
  • Fort Lupton – The district middle school will be remodeled in a $10.7 million project if the $5.1 million local match is approved.
  • Genoa-Hugo – Some $6.6 million needs to be raised locally for a $16.4 million project to renovate and expand the district’s PK-12 school.
  • Hi Plains – A $2.8 million local match is required for the $17 million to build a new PK-12 school.
  • Lake County – The district is seeking $11.4 million for a $26 million total high school renovation and addition project. Voters defeated a 2011 BEST matching proposal.
  • Montezuma-Cortez – The district needs to raise $21 million as its share of the $42 million cost to replace its 1966 high school. The Cortez Journal: District hopes for improved performance if bond passes – Oct. 11
  • Otis – The local share is $2.8 million for a $20.6 million plan to build a new PK-12 school to replace a 1984 elementary school and a 1922 junior/senior high school.
  • Platte Valley – The district is seeking $5.7 million for a $15 million project to renovate the historic Revere High School in Ovid.
  • Salida – The local share is $9.6 million for the $13.6 million cost of replacing an elementary school. Salida is an alternate for a state grant.
  • West End – The needed district match is $9.4 million of the $22 million for a new PK-12 school to replace a 1938 high school in Nucla and a 1971 building in Naturita.