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Meeker School District has had more than its share of negativity lately. So, let’s shift our thinking to a more positive direction, the future.
As a member of the Citizens for Meeker Schools Committee, a teacher in the Meeker School District and a taxpayer in Rio Blanco County, I would like to ask you to consider the positive effect the proposed mill levy override, Ballot Question 3A, will have on our schools.
First, how do we want to educate our children? Do we want them to have the same educational opportunities local students have had in the past?
Unfortunately, Meeker students currently have fewer academic and extra-curricular options than students did 10 years ago. Due to the compounding effect of Colorado’s complex school finance legislation, some of which dates back to the 1980s, the state’s school funding is decreasing for all Colorado schools and especially in our Meeker school district.
Our school district has very little, if any, control over school funding at the local level. Even the amount of money we can request in a mill levy override is dictated by school finance law.
So, even though we have plenty of tax revenues in this county to fully fund our schools, we are not allowed to do so because of school finance law. Any permanent change in these laws must come from the state level. In the meantime, what is our district to do?
Over time, the reduction in the state’s school funding has forced our district to eliminate programs, teacher and support positions such as a middle school science teacher and middle school and elementary art teachers.
There is limited technology instruction in the middle school and none in the elementary school. Current high school course offerings are at bare bones minimum for meeting graduation requirements.
Spanish is the only foreign language offered and there are no business or statistics classes. Classroom budgets for basic supplies have dwindled so much that most teachers pay for a significant amount of supplies and materials out of their own pockets.
In addition to the loss of teaching positions, all programs (athletics, food service, transportation, classroom and administration) were asked to take a 20 percent reduction in spending and the district went to a four-day week in an effort to balance the 2014-15 budget.
Yet, unfunded state mandates and assessments require administrative personnel to spend a greater percentage of their time just to keep our district in compliance.
The district’s buildings are getting older. Both the middle and high schools have leaks that will be costly to repair. The bus barn is too old and too small to allow our mechanics to work indoors on bus repairs in the winter and our high school track is unsafe and unfit for hosting competitions.
We are all feeling “tax fatigue” and no one likes to think about trying to do more with fewer resources. However, we want our students to excel, not just get by.
In order to help them achieve excellence, we need highly qualified teachers, sufficient support staff, safe transportation and facilities and up-to-date text books.
Every cent of the mill levy override will help Meeker School District offset some of the reductions we have experienced over the last 10 years. It will cost us less than .1 percent of the value of our homes, and less than .3 percent of the value of our businesses to provide more than $900,000 for our school district, and the state can’t touch a penny of it.
Please think about it and register to vote so your voice counts.
Kathy de Vergie