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District campaigns bust $1 million mark

Colorado schools districts are asking voters for more than $1 billion in tax increases in Tuesday’s election, and campaign committees supporting those proposals have raised some $1.25 million to persuade citizens to vote yes.

Denver Public Schools is requesting about half of the statewide total, a $466 million bond issue and a $49 million in operating revenue.

Similarly, the $555,187 raised by Together for Denver’s Schools, the campaign committee backing measures 3A and 3B, is nearly half the total raised by campaign committees statewide.

The Denver committee has tapped a long list of deep-pocketed corporate and individual donors from Colorado and around the country, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He contributed $75,000 to the effort, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday with the secretary of state’s office and covering activity from Oct. 12 through Oct. 28.

In comparison, the opposition committee, No on Denver 3B Bond, has raised pocket change – $1,890.

Some $1.04 million has been raised for tax election campaigns in four major metro-area districts, including Aurora, Cherry Creek and Jefferson County plus Denver.

Citizens for Cherry Creek Schools, which is campaigning for a $125 million bond issue and a $25 million operating increase in that district, raised an additional $50,966 during the most recent reporting period. Recent fundraising by Aurora Citizens for Excellent Schools and Citizens for Jeffco Schools was more modest.

While the total raised in Denver may raise eyebrows, when calculated on a per-student basis it lags behind the campaign cash raised in two smaller districts that are seeking bond issues to raise matching funds for state construction grants.

In the Lake County district in the central mountains, with 1,224 students, Citizens for Lake County Schools has raised $11,671, or $9.53 per student.

The Montezuma-Cortez district in the Four Corners region has 2,431 students, and the Cortez 21C High School Committee has raised $18,736, or $7.70 per pupil.

DPS has 80,890 students, so the $555,187 raised by the Together committee amounts to only $6.86 a kid.

There are distinct and traditional patterns in giving to district campaign committees. Large and some medium-sized districts draw funds from construction companies, home builders, architects, teachers unions, bond companies and other businesses, as well as from a long list of individuals. Committees in smaller districts receive contributions from a few individuals and local businesses, and some rely on fundraisers like pancake suppers, barbeques and auctions.

On the spending side, most of the money in all districts is concentrated on low-tech measures like mailings and yard signs, plus newspaper and some radio advertising.

Snapshots of key districts

Here’s a look at activity by advocacy committees in major districts for the Oct. 12-28 reporting period:

Aurora Citizens from Excellent Schools – Total of $133,592 raised, including $12,005 in this reporting period. $20,867 on hand. In the latest period, the committee received $10,000 from Oakwood Homes.

Citizens for Cherry Creek Schools – Total of $204,823 raised, including $50,966 in the most recent reporting period. $52,929.32 on hand. Significant contributors include $10,000 from hedge fund Paulson RE Recovery, $10,000 from homebuilder MDC Holdings, $5,000 from FirstBank Holding Co. of Lakewood, $5,000 from Meritage Homes, $4,950 from homebuilder Lennar Colorado, $2,000 from the California Association of Realtors Political Action Committee, $2,500 from the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation and $1,596 from the Cherry Creek Education Association.

Citizens for Jeffco Schools – Total of $149,504 raised, including $8,271 in the most recent reporting period. $54,684 on hand. There were only two significant recent contributions, $5,000 from the Boulder law firm Caplan and Earnest and $2,000 from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado.

An opposition committee, No on 3A/3B, raised a total of $5,145 and terminated its activities as of Friday, according to state records.

Together for Denver’s Schools – Total of $555,187 raised, $242,740 in the most recent reporting period. $147,489 on hand. Major recent contributors, in addition to NYC Mayor Bloomberg, include homebuilder MDC Holdings with $15,000 and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which added $6,000 to a prior donation of $7,000. Contributions of $5,000 each were made by Boulder Creek Builders of Louisville, homebuilder Standard Pacific, businessman Tom Gart, Parkwood Homes Stapleton II and Loop Capital Markets of Chicago. Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, gave $2,500.

No on Denver 3B Bond – Total of $1,890 raised, including $300 in the most recent reporting period. $277.23 on hand.

Best for Sheridan Students Committee – Total of $5,333 raised, none in this reporting period. $1,016 on hand.

Committee to Support Education in Greeley/Evans – Total of $18,736 raised, $59 in this reporting period. $3,804 on hand.

D70 Kids First (Pueblo County) – Total of $19,130 raised, included $4,750 in the recent reporting period. $7,068 on hand. Significant contributions included an additional $1,000 from the Colorado Education Association, for a total of $2,500, and $3,750 from the Denver office of the bond firm Piper Jaffray.

Yes on 3A (St. Vrain) – Total of $84,819 raised, including $1,025 in the recent reporting period. $461 on hand. The committee received $500 from Haselden Construction.

Friday’s reporting deadline marked the last finance filings before the election. Campaign committees involved in tax elections don’t have to make final reports until Dec. 6.

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