Proposed Academy District 20 Ballot Measure 4A Costly for Taxpayers   

The November 7th election is fast approaching and voter ballots are being mailed out this week. State and local government, as well as school districts, have their hands out, asking you to part with your hard-earned money.

The question is: How generous do you feel?

We attended a September 28th meeting about Academy School District 20’s proposed ballot issue, which will be listed as, “El Paso County School District No 20 Ballot Issue 4A.” It asks voters to approve or reject a mill levy override (MLO) for the school district.

Here is a video of that meeting:

The meeting was hosted by D20 Chief Financial Officer Becky Allen, who presented. The district is asking D20 residents for $35 million annually through the proposed MLO.  An MLO means you pay additional taxes on top of what you are already paying. If voters pass 4A, the D20 MLO will be a three-year phase-in approach to reach the $35 million, up from the current $11 million mill levy collected annually. It will never sunset and D20 residents will be on the hook for the $35 million in perpetuity.

The bill will show up in your property taxes. If you’re a D20 renter, you won’t be taxed, however, you can expect your rent to increase to cover your property owner’s cost.

What’s it going to cost you?

For every $100,000 of your property’s value, you will pay an extra $5.97 each month. If your home is valued at $500,000, your tax bill will increase by $29.85 each month- that’s $358.20 per year in additional property taxes if 4A passes.

Where will the $35 million go?

Teacher and Support Staff Compensation- $18.5 million

Teachers (1,441) and support staff (1,496) will see a 9% pay raise. Notice that the support staff employees outnumber the teaching staff employees. If recruiting and retaining teachers is the main problem, why wouldn’t teachers receive the majority of the raises?

Armed Security Officers- $900,000

Armed security officers will be placed in every elementary school. Currently, elementary schools share security officers, while both middle schools and high schools already have dedicated officers.

Facilities- $10 million

Douglas Valley Elementary and Air Academy High School will be rebuilt. D20 plans to do a cost share with the Department of Defense Public Schools on Military Installations Program. Federal taxpayer dollars will pay 80% of the school rebuilds and the proposed 4A MLO will pay for the other 20%. The cost estimate to rebuild the two schools is expected to be $236 million.

Funding Charter Schools- $5.6 million

“Charters receive a proportionate amount, based on student enrollment, to be used on teacher and support staff salaries, facilities, and security.”

How are Colorado Schools Funded?

Each year, property taxes are sent to the state. Around 80% of what you pay in property taxes goes to Colorado public schools. Legislators determine the funding. D20 currently receives $10,015 per pupil per year from the state; there are 26,600 students in D20.  The school district ranks 178 of out 178 for funding compared with other school districts of the same size – dead last – which is due to having the fewest number of qualifiers to get extra funds from the state.

What qualifies school districts to receive extra funds:

  • The school district is located in a high-cost-of-living area.
  • The school district has more “at risk” students.
  • The school district has a large number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
  • The school district has more economically disadvantaged students.

Recently, D20 has been silent about a taxpayer-funded affordable housing project being built in the district. Residents of the Pine Creek neighborhood expressed concerns about Pine Creek High School being unable to absorb more students into the D20 neighborhood school, however, there have been no comments from the school district about the overburden on that high school. D20 has a financial incentive to add more economically disadvantaged students to the district because it means additional state funding.

If El Paso County School District No. 20 Ballot Issue 4A passes, many families will need to figure out what to eliminate from their household budgets. $71.64 per every $100,000 spent on a home adds up quickly- especially with the recent property valuation increases. What would you have to cut out if this permanent tax increase passes?

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