BAYFIELD – The Bayfield Board of Education has unanimously approved a resolution supporting Proposition CC in November’s statewide election.
The Ignacio School District has not considered a resolution.
Colorado ranks as one of the lowest states for per-capita spending on education. Proposition CC would drive some increased funding to schools, but inconsistently. To Bayfield and Ignacio district leaders, the proposition is imperfect, but it might be an improvement.
“These small amounts of money can make a difference with what’s going on in the classroom. I’d hate to let it go,” Bayfield board member Barb Wickman said at a recent meeting.
Proposition CC would use tax refunds to fund higher education, public schools and the Highway Users Tax Fund equally.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights caps the tax revenue Colorado may collect each year, and any amount over that limit must be refunded to taxpayers. Proposition CC proposes that the state keep and redistribute those TABOR refunds.
Legislative economists estimate the TABOR refunds are between $26 and $90 per taxpayer per year, depending on the taxpayer’s income. If the proposition passed, it wouldn’t draw from income tax refunds.
The La Plata County government already is allowed to keep tax revenue it collects over the TABOR cap, according to the Bayfield school board fact sheet.
The four board members present at the Bayfield school board meeting voted to support the proposition, while expressing some concern. Daniele Hillyer, board secretary and treasurer, was absent.
“We just have to keep letting the public and the Legislature know that the level of funding in this state is abysmal,” Wickman said.
The state has cut millions of dollars from school districts over the past decade. It withheld $13.3 million from the Bayfield School District from 2009 to 2020, according to Colorado School Finance Report.
“It’s unfortunate, as a state that has such a robust economy right now, that we have to be out there groveling,” said Carol Blatnick, vice president of the school board.
If the proposition passes, legislative economists estimate that Colorado could collect $310 million above the limit during the 2019-20 budget year.
How much of that money reaches the Bayfield School District varies widely depending on the organization. Bayfield could receive $143,000 to $188,000 in the 2019-20 fiscal year, and $73,000 to $415,000 in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to the district’s Proposition CC fact sheet.
For school districts, the funding would be inconsistent from year to year. It must be distributed to districts on a per-pupil basis and only for nonrecurring expenses. For example, schools could spend money on a bus or curriculum but could not increase teacher salaries.
Board member Mike Foutz voted for the resolution but said the proposition wouldn’t come close to addressing the funding problem and need to increase teacher salaries. He said it is a tax increase even though the proposition language says it isn’t.
“If they would be more straight with people, maybe they’d trust them,” Foutz said.
In Ignacio, the town board of trustees stalled on a decision to pass a resolution of support for Proposition CC and the board of education has not considered a resolution.
Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said the district, himself included, is on the fence about whether to support the proposition.
The state has cut $8.5 million total in funds for Ignacio schools over the last 11 years – the district’s total annual budget is currently $9 million, Fuschetto said.
He said the proposition has no guarantee that future Legislatures will continue to use TABOR refunds for education and transportation. Schools need to have more consistent revenue because the district’s top need is to increase teacher salaries, he said.
Still, the school could use Proposition CC for a new bus or operational costs, like utilities.
“I mean, that will help us as we all struggle with educational budgets and programs and utilities and salaries and health insurance,” he said. “The extra funding would be great.”