From My Window… Amendment 66 has too many questions; Meeker should back 3A

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
It’s looking a bit foggy out my window. I can’t get a clear picture of whether what I see on the horizon is good or bad.
The good news is that some folks say it will bring more money into the Rangely and Meeker school districts; the bad news is that it means an increase in taxes and there is an an uncertainty as to whether or not the refiguring of the state’s school financing actually will bring as much money to our school districts as is currently coming in.
It is not a clear win/win situation, that tricky little “Amendment 66: Funding for Public Schools.”
Amendment 66 proposes amending the Colorado State Constitution and the Colorado Revised Statutes to change how the state funds public preschool through 12th grade education by raising taxes to increase the amount of money available, changing how the state distributes funding to school districts, and requiring that a fixed percentage of revenue from certain state taxes be annually set aside for schools.
According to the state voting guide on the issue, specifically, the measure:
1. Raises the state individual income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent on the first $75,000 of taxable income and to 5.9 percent on any taxable income over $75,000, and deposits the additional tax revenue in a separate fund to increase public education funding;
2. Implements legislation passed by the state Legislature, creating a new formula for allocating state and local funding to school districts;
3. Repeals the constitutional requirement that base per-pupil funding for public education increase by at least the rate of inflation annually; and
4. Requires that at least 43 percent of state income, sales and excise tax revenue, collected at existing tax rates, be set aside annually to pay for public education.
The state voting guide also outlines three arguments in favor of passing the amendment and three arguments against passing the amendment.
Arguments in Favor:
1. One of the government’s most important functions is to provide children with a high-quality education. To improve schools, the state needs a long-term solution that is innovate, accountable for results and transparent to taxpayers. The addition money provided in this measure allows local boards of education to target areas where research suggests that investments are likely to produce improved student outcomes, such as ensuring effective teachers are in the classroom, reducing class sizes, investing in preschool and full-day kindergarten, upgrading classroom technology, and giving principals and teachers more control over budgeting decisions in their schools.
2. Investing in public education is the best way to ensure a strong Colorado economy capable of competing in today’s global market. One of the top priorities of businesses seeking a new location is identifying a well-educated workforce. Since the budget year 20008-2009, the state Legislature has severely cut P-12 funding, with funding for the 2012-2013 school year $1 billion below what the funding formula would have required. Restoring this funding shortfall not only benefits the states schools and communities, but it also provides a positive signal to companies looking to relocate or to expand in Colorado.
3. The measure simultaneously restores funding to public schools that have suffered severe budget cuts and it provides taxpayers with needed accountability by measuring how the increased investment will affect student achievement. The state will be required to prepare a return-on-investment study and a cost study to identify finding deficits that affect the performance of school districts and the academic achievement of students. The state will also make detailed expenditure data for each school and district available to the general public, allowing for comparisons between schools.
Arguments Against:
1. Amendment 66 is a $950 million tax increase that may impede economic expansion when the state’s economy is still recovering. Increasing state income taxes reduces the money that households have to spend or save. As a result, consumer spending and overall economic activity may also decline, negatively impacting the competitiveness of Colorado businesses. The state currently has adequate financial resources to implement Senate Bill 13-213 for the next year without a tax increase. The Legislature set aside $1.1 billion in budget year 2012-13 and an estimated $290 million in budget year 2013-14 for P-12 public education. These recent set-asides are indicative of an expanding economy that may permit adequate investment in P-12 public education without additional tax revenue.
2.This measure imposes an additional tax burden on state taxpayers without any guarantee of increased academic achievement. Senate Bill 13-213 makes incremental changes to the school funding allocation formula without providing significant educational reform. This approach lacks real accountability as the new funding formula does not reward schools or districts that show gains in student achievement. Amendment 66 leaves in place an outmoded system of delivering education that has not shown significant measurable improvement for students on state assessments.
3. Under the measure, taxpayers in some school districts will pay more in new taxes than these districts will receive in new revenue. All individuals will see a state income tax increase of a least 8 percent to implement the new P-12 education formula, and some will see substantially higher percentage increases. At the same time, under Senate Bill 13-213, 37 of the 178 state school districts will see increases in funding of less than 8 percent. Thus, the measure maintains a funding structure that uses tax revenue from some districts in order to subsidize p-12 education in other districts.

For the information of the Herald Times readers, the Rangely School Board and the Meeker School Board have passed measures in opposition to the passage of Amendment 66.
It is important to note that both school boards are in opposition to the amendment, but not surprising in Meeker, where Meeker School District-RE1 is seeking another measure from district voters to increase the property tax mill levy to bring more money into the district’s coffers.
Conventional wisdom in elections such as this is that when there are two related measures on the ballot either both fail or one fails and one passes. It is a rare election when two similar measures pass.
Other conventional wisdom is that when it comes down to an income tax increase, such as Amendment 66, or a property tax increase, such as local ballot initiative 3A, the measure being paid for by property tax increase is the more likely to pass.
That may signal a better chance for the success of the Meeker increase to be passed by voters.
As stated on a Meeker School District information sheet, “Local Ballot Initiative 3A is a mill levy override, which will increase property taxes with in the Meeker School District. If passed by the voters, 100 percent of the revenue will go directly to our Meeker PreK-12 schools. A mill levy override is the only way to remedy the school district’s budget shortfalls with money (the district) can control and which the state cannot touch.”
The decision facing Meeker voters on whether to back one of the measures, both of the measures or none of the measures is an important decision for Meeker district voters to make.
It is an equally important decision that faces Rangely voters, who must decide to approve or defeat Amendment 66.
The most important message to be given here is that regardless of which way you are going to vote, county voters need to be informed on both measures and make certain they get those mail-in ballots in the mail so they are received by the elections office by Nov. 5. Don’t waste time or wait until the last minute.
There is no question that Meeker is in need of more money — particularly since it is one of three districts in the state that the state takes money back from and because the district has for the past couple of years passed a budget in the red, only to be have barely caught up during the relevant fiscal year. This is a very dangerous tradition to begin and a killer to get out of if it goes too far.
The recommendation here is that Meeker residents support Local Ballot Initiative 3A and reject Amendment 66.
With all the research being done by the Rangely School District RE-4 and a highly intelligent superintendent in Matt Scoggins, the recommendation here is that Rangely also reject Amendment 66. It has too many unknowns and even has the potential of harming the district.
Also, remember that this is a mail-only ballot and that voters must have their ballots sent in and received by Nov. 5. Voters have less than two weeks to fill out the ballots they have been sent and to get them back to the county elections office.
Please make an effort to learn about the measures before you because your school funding is most important and the effects of this election will undoubtedly be long lasting.