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Colorado districts seeking $1 billion

See this summary article for an updated list of districts.

Thirty-one Colorado school districts are seeking voter approval this year for a combined total of just over $1 billion in bond issues and property tax increases for operating expenses.

About half the amount is accounted for by the Denver Public Schools’ proposed $466 million bond issue plus its request for $49 million to cover operating costs. The DPS bond request is the largest in state history. And Jefferson County is seeking a combined $149 million for a bond issue and an operating increase.

The total of the proposed bond issues is about $862 million, including $95 million in requests from 15 districts that need to raise matching money to win state Building Excellent Schools Today grants.

The proposals for operating increases total about $150 million. Most of those districts say they need increases in operating revenues to at least partly offset state budget cuts of recent years. Those increases are formally known as mill levy overrides and usually called overrides for short.

And 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 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.

This year’s proposals

Front Range

  • Aurora – $15 million override for partial offset of state cuts.
  • Cherry Creek – $125 million bond for building upgrades and technology; $25 million override to offset cuts.
  • Denver – $466 million bond for maintenance, technology, renovation and upgrades; $49 million override for enrichment, student support services and other programs. DPS also is an alternate for a $3.8 million BEST grant to renovate South High School, and some of the bond issue would provide a match.
  • Greeley – $8.2 million bond to match a BEST grant to replace a middle school. The district is an alternate for state funding.
  • Jefferson County – $99 million bond for a variety of building upgrades; $39 million override to maintain class size and protect some programs.
  • Pueblo County – $59.9 million bond for safety and security projects, replacement of modular units and other work.
  • St. Vrain – $14.8 million override to maintain staff compensation, technology and early childhood programs.
  • Sheridan – $6.5 million bond to match BEST grant.

Voters in Pueblo County and Sheridan defeated tax proposals last year. Larger districts that failed last year and aren’t trying again in 2012 include Brighton, Cheyenne Mountain, Douglas County, Falcon, Mesa 51 and Thompson.

Elsewhere in Colorado

  • Alamosa – $4.9 million bond to build stadium, other athletic facilities and agricultural education facilities.
  • Aspen – A .35 percent city sales-tax increase would provide an estimated $1.75 million for the district.
  • Bayfield – $11.9 million bond for building upgrades and technology; $1.2 million override for personnel and technology.
  • Buena Vista – $900,000 override to partially cover budget cuts.
  • Cheyenne Re-5 – $200,000 override for transportation and technology costs.
  • Del Norte – $832,600 override to restore budget cuts.
  • Fort Lupton – $1.4 million override, extending for seven years an existing override.
  • Mancos – $276,000 million override in anticipation of future state cuts.
  • Plateau Valley – $350,000 override for technology and instructional materials.
  • Stratton – $119,200 operating increase to restore budget cuts.
  • Telluride – $800,000 override for various instructional costs.

Other BEST match elections

State law requires BEST applicants to provide matching funds based on districts’ property values and other factors, and most districts need bond issues to raise their matches. Districts whose proposals fail forfeit their state grants, which then become available to districts on the alternate list – if they pass their bond issues.

  • Buena Vista – $4.4 million
  • Dolores – $3.5 million
  • Elbert – $2.9 million
  • Genoa-Hugo – $6.6 million
  • Hi Plains – $2.8 million
  • Lake County – $11.4 million (2011 proposal defeated)
  • Montezuma-Cortez – $21 million
  • Otis – $2.8 million
  • Platte Valley – $5.7 million (alternate)
  • Salida – $9.6 million (alternate)
  • West End – $9.4 million

Note: Friday was the last day for districts to provide election information to county clerks. This list of districts was compiled by Education News Colorado research and from material provided by the Colorado School Finance Project. But because districts don’t have to report their plans to a central authority like the state, it’s possible we’ve missed somebody. We’ll continue to update this list.

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