Letter: Meeker school board against anti-tax votes

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This year’s general election has three measures on its ballot that warrant discussion. It’s critical that the public understand the implications of the proposed Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 before they vote on them. Aside from the impact of these three issues, it should be remembered that a simple majority can pass amendments to our state constitution, but it takes a two-thirds majority to remove them. Voters must carefully evaluate any and all constitutional amendments before approving them.
The Meeker School Board is not alone in adopting a resolution opposing Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. These measures may look tempting at face value, but, when fully understood, it becomes clear they will cripple the state of Colorado if passed. The negative impact on school districts, municipal and county government, small business and the subsequent loss of jobs will be devastating.
Amendment 60 is an amendment to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR Amendment passed in 1992) — a tax limitation measure already in our state’s constitution. If passed, it would require school districts to reduce non-debt property tax mill levies by 50 percent by 2020. These are the property tax revenues that fund our schools. Amendment 60 requires the state to backfill these lost dollars, but does not identify any funds with which to do so. Recent state revenue projections call for a $1.1 billion shortfall for 2011-2012 and if the state had to cover K-12 funding, only 1 percent of the budget would remain to cover social services, prisons, roads, law enforcement, fire protection and other programs. Many important services would go unfunded and many jobs would be lost. The ripple effect would be disastrous.
Additionally, Amendment 60 would overturn past local elections to “de-Bruce.” De-Brucing measures have been passed in Meeker and across the state, since TABOR went into effect. De-Brucing has allowed local tax supported entities to receive revenues outside of the limits of the TABOR amendment and thereby improving their funding and providing them greater flexibility in operations. De-Brucing doesn’t generate additional tax revenues, but allows entities to keep those already collected under existing tax codes. By reversing these locally approved decisions, Amendment 60 would create a huge disruption in funding for everything which is tax supported for those jurisdictions which have “de-Bruced.” Amendment 60 further stipulates any additional property taxes approved by voters to offset the loss of revenue it creates must sunset in 10 years. Passing Amendment 60 allows our constitution to overturn measures previously approved by the voters.
Amendment 61, as articulated by the Colorado Association of School Boards, “will curtail approximately $2 billion a year in publicly financed construction projects, resulting in a significant loss of public and private sector jobs, by banning the use of any kind of debt by the state of Colorado and severely restricting the ability of local school districts and other local public entities to issue debt or to utilize appropriate and prudent business practices in managing the finances of the school district.” Such restrictions on local debt would put all future bond projects in jeopardy. The new Meeker Elementary School and the improvements to Meeker High School and Barone Middle School fall into this category. Imagine the loss of jobs if there were virtually no capital construction projects? Amendment 61 would also end an interest free state loan program which many school districts access to operate their districts and meet payroll between tax revenue distributions. This could conceivably cause some school closures and/or a reduction in educational services. Lease to purchase agreements would be prohibited as well under Amendment 61.
Proposition 101 is an amendment to the Colorado Statutes that would gradually reduce the state income tax rate to 3.5 percent; reduce local sales and use taxes, vehicle registration fees; and prohibit local and state governments from assessing any telecommunication fees or taxes. The state’s budget is already severely impacted by the recession and to arbitrarily reduce state income taxes by 25 percent will mean drastic reductions in state services. Ultimately, it could bankrupt Colorado. Cutting local sales and use taxes will mean funding for school and other county services would be greatly reduced. By making all vehicle registrations $10 each, with no regard for the size and value of the vehicle being licensed, we will be returning to the rate effective in 1919. There were very few paved roads then and a dollar stretched a lot further than it does today. These revenues are the major source of funding for road and bridge construction locally and within the state. Without this revenue, our county and state road systems will fall into total disrepair and many more jobs will be lost.
Before voting on Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101, we urge voters to fully understand their ramifications. Locally, the fiscal impact will be devastating. We understand that the net loss to Rio Blanco County will be 39 percent or greater. On Sept. 10, 2010, the Colorado Legislative Council came out with their revised fiscal implications of Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 102. They predict, “Once the measures are fully implemented, the state will lose about $2.1 billion in revenue each year and will have to increase K-12 education funding by $1.6 billion annually in today’s dollars. This would commit almost all of the state’s general fund budget to paying for the constitutional and statutory requirements of K-12 education.” What will happen to all the other important services that rely on state funding?
We agree that times are not good, but these measures, in our opinion, are a short-sighted way to solve our problems. Citizens’ livelihoods will be at risk, students’ education will be threatened, businesses will close their doors and municipal, county and state governments’ ability to function and meet their responsibilities to their constituents will be severely compromised. We will go into a deeper recession and unemployment rates will soar. It will be a downhill spiral.
Meeker School Board