Board talks election issues at work session

MEEKER | Election season is nearly upon us, and Meeker’s board of education met for a work session Sept. 10. to discuss several items, including two education-related ballot issues that will come before voters this November.
First on the agenda was discussing a draft resolution in support of Amendment 73 followed by a discussion of the draft resolution for Ballot Issue 4A, which is the local board’s request to the voters for a $39.7 million bond issue to help fund construction of a new high school and bus garage.
“I think it’s important for our community to understand the difference between the two,” Superintendent Chris Selle said of the two election issues. Amendment 73, formerly known as Initiative 93, would establish a bracket system for income taxes for people earning above $150,000 per year. The current flat tax rate is 4.63 percent. There would be no change in income taxes for those earning between $0 and $150,000. The corporate tax rate would increase from 4.63 percent to 6 percent.
According to ballotpedia.org, “The measure would decrease property taxes levied by school districts, though it does not affect property taxes levied by other local governments. Under the measure, the property tax rate for residential property would be decreased to 7 percent and the non-residential property rate would be decreased to 24 percent.
The measure would establish a fund called the Quality Public Education Fund. Revenue generated from the new taxes would be dedicated to the Quality Public Education Fund to fund preschool through 12th-grade public education. Specifically, the fund would be used to increase the statewide base per-pupil funding and increase spending for special education, preschool, English language proficiency, and gifted programs, among other things.”
If passed, the measure would generate $1.6 billion for public schools. Colorado ranks 42nd in the nation for per student funding, and 46th in the nation for teacher pay.
Ballot Issue 4A, if passed, will increase the district’s debt by $39.7 million, with an anticipated repayment cost of up to $70.5 million, which will cause district property taxes to be increased by up to $4.6 million annually for the duration of the bonding period.
Board members offered suggestions on refining the language in both amendments and will vote on final documents at the Sept. 24 meeting.
Next, the board discussed ongoing and future superintendent goals. Board member Bwob Dorsett stated he would like to see a tech program at Meeker High School; currently there is no technology curriculum.
“The results of Amendment 73 are going to dictate a lot of that,” Selle said. The board asked for a ballpark estimate of the cost of such a program. For a salaried technology teacher, the price would be $50,000—70,000 per year. Additionally the school would face an up-front cost to purchase equipment and supplies, and upgrades to equipment each year thereafter.
One potential way to cut costs while still creating a tech program is to hire a math and science teacher who will function in both roles. “If it’s possible to hire a combined position to get a program up and going that would be ideal,” Selle said. Class sizes at the high school are quite high this year with more than 200 students enrolled. Principal Amy Chinn also mentioned adding another English/social studies teacher to the staff.
Slightly more important on the district’s to-do list? An integrated science program. “We’re pretty inconsistent across the district,” Selle said.
The board also briefly revisited community discussion of the four-day school week. Board member Kevin Amack stated he felt the issue had been “put to bed.” Trustee Davey Smith stated anyone with concerns would be welcome to attend a board meeting for discussion of the matter.
Elementary school principal Kathy Collins spoke briefly on the district’s full-day kindergarten program. “We’ve definitely noticed a lot more gains. We were cramming so much into three hours it was crazy. Now there’s more play time and discover time that we weren’t able to do before that research shows is just as important.”
The next board of education meeting is Sept. 24 at the administration building in Meeker.

By CAITLIN WALKER | caitlin@theheraldtimes.com

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