Letter to the Editor: Backing hike in school tax levy

Dear Editor:
After reading the Aug. 29 story, “RE-1 School District to Seek Increased Tax Mill Levy,” I want to express support for this initiative. Despite difficult economic circumstances and significant tax loads, I believe it is important that our community continue to maintain a high priority on funding and supporting our schools.
Unfortunately, a large budget deficit currently threatens our local schools. That deficit is attributed in large part to decreased state funding, underfunded mandates and inflation. Despite attempts to decrease spending in our school district, we face an expected deficit of a whopping $540,000.00 in the next year.
With about three-quarters of our district’s spending being required to pay for staffing, it is clear that we cannot simply erase such a deficit by cutting spending without causing a severe negative effect to our local schools and adequate maintenance of qualified teachers and classroom sizes conducive to learning.
If we do not quickly realize remedies, our schools and our innocent children are apt to suffer severely.
Just before moving to Meeker, I served on the school board in another Colorado community. I saw firsthand the difficulty of trying to maintain a strong school system in our state’s current political environment.
Public education funding in our state has become increasingly complex and the state’s real value monetary contributions to education have significantly decreased while new requirements and costs seem to expand consistently. As a board member there, I gained a greater appreciation for the difficulties in funding facing our schools.
Education income is not a steady flow; tax income comes in spurts, and school districts must have an adequate reserve to meet payroll and pay bills. Employment costs have increased painfully and will increase more in coming years with upcoming federal mandates and requirements.
The TABOR and Gallagher amendments have helped to limit tax increases in our state, but also limit access to funding for our schools. Consequently, communities throughout Colorado are struggling to adequately fund education.
This is not a unique problem for our town. We must rally to find solutions. All of us certainly have expectations that wise stewardship and controlled spending with creative financing ideas must be part of the equation. However, I believe we will also need increased funding.
I have attended multiple school board meetings in Meeker over the last year, and have enjoyed opportunities to volunteer in some of the classrooms and committees of our schools. I have seen efforts that should make our community proud. Dedicated teachers and bright students abound; administrators and board members have worked tireless hours in efforts to maintain strong schools while remaining conscious of their budget. I see great efforts being made in our area.
Unfortunately, I have also seen that tight budgets have slowed necessary and appropriate maintenance to district facilities. The district has changed staffing patterns and requested sacrifices in efforts to provide adequate placement of teachers. I know of important courses and programs that the district is not consistently supporting due to funding issues.
Without increased support, I am concerned that we will see these issues magnify and the quality of our education system decline significantly.
My family and I are so impressed by this community. We feel very fortunate to be among good and caring people. We are fortunate to have dedicated educators and some wonderful opportunities for our children’s education in a rural school environment.
I have been amazed at the support the community extends to one another. I have loved the way the people of Meeker rally together for good causes. Our community now has the opportunity to strengthen our schools and support the students of the area.
The education of our children will benefit our entire community.
Benjamin Franklin suggested, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Nelson Mandela admonished, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Our investment in education will provide great returns to our community and we will help educate our greatest resource. I hope we can rally together to provide appropriate support for our community and its youth. I know that a mill levy increase is an uncomfortable sacrifice for many, but I also know that our schools and our children are worth it.
Chris Williams