By Sheridan Block
While still struggling to see the benefits of Colorado's school finance reform measure, the Ouray School District's Board of Education decided to take no action on the bill's proposed tax amendment.
Amendment 66, formerly known as Initiative 22, enacts Senate Bill 213 and will go to voters in November. The proposed amendment offers to raise approximately $1 billion a year in new revenues for K-12 education through an increase in the state's income tax rate.
Currently, Colorado citizens pay 4.63 percent in income tax. The initiative proposes a two-tiered system that would raise the tax to five percent for all income earned up to $75,000 and to 5.9 percent for all income earned above $75,000.
Also, Amendment 66 would require 43 percent of state revenues to be set aside to finance preschool through high school education.
"… The increase in state tax revenues will liberate state funds for spending in other significant areas of need in Colorado," the proposal reads.
According to Ouray School superintendent Scott Pankow, should the resolution pass in November, the school district will lose $79 per student, or a total of $14,000 based on this year's headcount. Additionally, the finance bill's hold harmless clause will distribute up to $348,000 that the district is unable to provide as a portion of the local property tax. However, should the school ever need more money, it would first need to raise enough to self-fund the allotted amount through a mill levy increase, which must be approved by voters.
"There's a lot of moving numbers that they can't tell you and you can't calculate," said Pankow.
Board chair Mike Fedel said he fails to see why the board should support the initiative. Having read the 174-page legislation twice, Fedel said the bill itself is flawed and filled with problems. He added that by supporting the amendment, the board in essence is supporting the bill.
"I can't support something that just looks like we're going to be struggling," said board member Kentee Pasek.
If voters approve the tax increase in November the finance bill won't go into effect until the 2015-2016 school year. However, if voters oppose the measure this year, the bill will remain "alive" for five years, giving legislatures a chance to make changes and present the bill to the public again.
Senate Bill 13-213 is a revision of the School Finance Act that would increase funding for kindergarten and preschool, provide more money for districts with the highest concentrations of at-risk and English language learning students, dedicate more money to special education and pay districts for the costs of implementing the reform. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill in May.
Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver) is the primary author of the bill. Johnston is expected to make a stop in Ouray County this fall as part of his tour of the Western Slope to promote the bill.