Joint Subcommittee Proposes Ballot Measure in 2018
CASTLE ROCK - At the March 7 special meeting of the Douglas County School District Board of Education, a joint subcommittee recommended placing a ballot initiative on the November 2018 ballot to address funding challenges in the school district. DCSD has not had a successful ballot measure since 2006.
The group is composed of members of the District Accountability Committee, Fiscal Oversight Committee, Long Range Planning Committee, Student Advisory Group, community members, and student representatives, and was formed at the request of the board.
“We need to bring all the pieces together,” said District Accountability Committee member Melody Fields.
Fields is the mother of five DCSD students.
“I want to make sure the whole community knows we’re all in this and that there’s no questioning or back doors or worries or concerns, but that everything is transparent and upfront,” Fields said.
While the Douglas County School District has taken several measures, including instituting a zero-based budgeting process, to ensure that as much money as possible is being sent to schools to educate students, the group identified three crucial needs during the presentation:
Student Alec Greven is a senior at Castle View High School and the president of the DCSD Student Advisory Group. He also serves as a member of the joint subcommittee and presented the group’s findings to the DCSD Board of Education.
School districts across the nation face a teacher shortage. The joint subcommittee highlighted the need to not only attract, but also retain, the best teachers.
As the school district recently published in its Funding Challenges fact sheet, there is a lot of competition amongst local school districts and DCSD is at a disadvantage because while Cherry Creek, Denver, Littleton and Boulder Valley school districts have approved mill levy overrides, DCSD has not passed a ballot issue since 2006.
The facts highlighted below are from the district’s handout.
FACT: If DCSD’s mill levy override was the same as Cherry Creek School District’s on a per student basis, DCSD would have approximately $100 million more each year.
The committee highlighted that DCSD schools and building are aging. Money is needed to ensure schools are safe and ready for daily learning. Additionally, new homes and neighborhoods are being built in several areas of the county. This will require new neighborhood schools - and the group said planning for this growth should start now.
FACT: When Douglas County is fully built out, the district is projected to double its number of feeders from nine to 18.
During the presentation, the group highlighted the need for career and technical education opportunities, concurrent enrollment offerings, and the importance of art, music and physical education. Excellent programming builds a strong foundation for success, allowing DCSD students to explore different career pathways and prepare for the college or career of their choice.
DCSD is primarily funded through a formula set by the State of Colorado. Per pupil funding is set by the state and school districts are funded at a similar level. The October count determines how much money each school district receives.
The state and the residents of Douglas County share the cost of educating DCSD students. The resident’s portion is paid through property taxes. When assessed values increase, DCSD’s funding does not change.
FACT: DCSD schools do not benefit from increased assessed values or growth - if local tax revenue increases, the state decreases its share to match the funding formula, keeping DCSD’s funding flat.
Any additional funding beyond the state funding formula comes from a mill levy override and/or a bond measure.
A mill levy override is used for operational needs, including salaries and programming. Bonds may only be used to finance the capital needs of the district, such as new
school buildings, repairs, technology or school busses.
FACT: The relatively small proceeds realized from marijuana taxes are spread across some Colorado school districts to build and improve school facilities through a program called BEST. DCSD received one BEST grant in 2009-2010 and has not been eligible for the program since that time.
Joint subcommittee members recommend moving forward with a ballot measure in November 2018 to allow for adequate time to educate the community of crucial needs in the Douglas County School District. For a successful outcome, the group identified the need for unified board, district and community support.
“We are going to need hundreds and hundreds of community volunteers and grassroots supporters out knocking on doors, and talking to the Rotary Club and a variety of other community organizations,” said Greven. “Through that grassroots support we can build that unified community that can really drive that campaign because it needs to be driven by the community.”
The DCSD Board of Education will now assess the information gathered from the joint subcommittee to determine if a bond and/or mill levy override should be placed on an upcoming ballot.
“I feel very strongly that this has got to be a parent and community driven effort,” said DCSD Board of Education Director Wendy Vogel. “I think the district and staff play a huge part in that because they’re going to be the informational people, but in terms of that reaching out into the community - it’s got to be, in my opinion, it’s got to be driven by parents and community members.”