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Voters also skeptical of many district tax measures

Voters around the state rejected just over half of the local district tax proposals on Tuesday’s ballots at the same time most voters said no to Amendment 66.

Some 13 bond issues and tax overrides were defeated in 12 districts, according to Department of State vote totals Wednesday. (Full counts haven’t been completed in some counties and districts.)

In five districts voters did approve bonds or tax overrides worth nearly $100 million. And residents of another six districts approved bond issues totaling about $30 million, money that will be used to match grants from the state’s Building Excellent Schools Today construction program. No proposed BEST match was defeated.

Voters split on two early childhood-related tax measures in Summit County. Citizens countywide strongly supported extension of a property tax that supports ECE programs. But Breckenridge voters defeated a proposed property tax hike to support preschool scholarships.

District projects earning voter approval included Littleton’s $80 million bond issue (an extension of an existing tax rather than a new levy) and Fort Morgan’s $7.2 million bond. Voters in Cheyenne County, Lake County and the Walsh district approved modest overrides.

The most significant losses were a $44 million bond in Commerce City, a $5.2 million override in Westminster, a $5.4 million bond and $1.3 million override in Canon City and a $4.5 million override in Lewis-Palmer. Other districts that lost either bonds or overrides included Bennett, Fremont Re-3, Elizabeth, East Grand, Kit Carson, Estes Park, Meeker and Wiley.

The districts whose voters approved BEST bonds were Creede, Haxtun, Kim, Limon, Moffat 2 and South Conejos. (Fort Morgan was a BEST alternative, and voters there approved an additional $11 million bond as a match on the chance that some BEST finalists didn’t pass their bonds.)

The BEST program is expected to get a boost from passage of Proposition AA, the wholesale and retail marijuana taxes that passed by a 65-35 margin statewide. The measure imposes a 15 percent state excise tax on the average wholesale price of retail marijuana, with the first $40 million of that revenue going to the BEST program. But revenue is expected to be less than $40 million in the first two years of the tax.

This year’s district tax elections were in sharp contrast to the volume and voter acceptance of proposals in 2012, when voters in 29 school districts approved 34 bond issues and operating revenue increases – plus one sales tax hike – worth just over $1 billion. Districts had 38 proposals worth about $1.03 billion on the ballot.

In 2011, with the economy still coming out of recession, voters approved only 11 of the 43 bond issues and mill levy overrides proposed by 36 districts.

Colorado voters historically have been receptive to local district tax increases, a fact cited frequently by A66 supporters as an indication that their proposal might have a chance. But, at least this year, the history of local support for taxes didn’t translate to a statewide initiative.

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