Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Boards in D-12, D-49 decide to ask voters to raise taxes

CAROL MCGRAW Updated: August 29, 2011 at 12:00 am

The boards of two Pikes Peak region school districts voted Monday to place tax questions on the November ballot.

Falcon School District 49 will ask voters to approve an $85 million bond measure to ease crowding and a $5 million mill levy override for operational expenses such as retaining and attracting teachers and updating classroom technology, and expand the current fee for service busing program.

Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 will ask voters to approve a $1.7 million mill levy override to replace state revenue that has been lost in recent years. If it passes, property taxes would increase about $2.85 a month for every $100,000 in home value.

Both board voted unanimously to place the questions on the ballot. The D-49 called a special meeting Monday, hurrying to meet the Friday state deadline to place the measure on the ballot.

Its bond issue would cost taxpayers $1.50 per $100,000 in home value. The override would increase property taxes about $5 per month for each $100,000 in home value, and would sunset in six years.

“It’s a tough time for families, but education is very important to the community and we need to invest in kids,” board member Tammy Harold said after the meeting.”We need to have more local control and not depend on the state.”

Board member Rusty Moomey noted that the money school districts receive from the state is a question mark for next year. “Already they are forecasting it wil be the same as this year.”

The district, like others across the state, has suffered from drastic reductions in state education funding for the past three years. D-49 officials cut staff, teachers and the free bus program as a result. The budget for 2011- 2012 is about $72.4 million.

Last year voters rejected Falcon’s request for a $125 million bond which would have provided  an extra 3,500 classroom seats in the district, including an addition to Falcon High School and a new 900-student middle school.

The last tax increase in the district was in 2005 when voters approved an $80.5 million mill levy override.

The school district east of Colorado Springs, which has 14,500 students, has for years been one of the fastest growing in the state. While growth has slowed somewhat, there is crowding in more than two-thirds of the districts buildings, officials said.

The distrtict has more than $300 million in needs, board members noted. The bond could provide the following improvements: build a new elementary school near Falcon Middle School; remodel Horizon Middle School to increase student capacity; add athletic facilities and auxiliary gym at Vista Ridge High School; add a 400-student wing at Falcon High School, and construct a K-8 school in the western part of the district to relieve crowding.

The state cuts in Cheyenne Mountain have added up to about $4 million over three years.

“We have done cuts without a lot of pain but if this doesn’t go through we can’t promise that any more,” said D-12 board president Jack Wiepking.

The district conducted a survey and believes there is support for the tax increase.

“We don’t want to lose programs or anything else,” said Superintendent Walt Cooper. “We don’t want D-12’s programs to be dictated by state budget cuts.”

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