On Nov. 2 Colorado Springs-area voters will decide on five local school district financial initiatives aimed at rebuilding or renovating old schools, giving teachers a pay raise and upgrading playgrounds, athletic fields and other facilities.
Ballot Issue 4A
District 49, based in the Falcon area, is asking voters to greenlight an $8.6 million tax increase to fund a pay increase for teachers and other staff members.
The district’s annual staff survey frequently indicates that competitive salary ranks at or near the top of employee needs, said Chief Business Officer Brett Ridgway in a recent virtual town hall meeting.
“Our staff receives 14% less compensation than our neighboring districts,” said Ridgway, who noted that a pay raise would not only help retain staff, but would make the district more attractive to prospective employees.
While many district parents are in favor of giving teachers a raise, some believe there has to be a better way than enacting a tax increase.
“I’m voting no,” said Jenny, a D-49 parent who asked that her last name not be used for fear of bullying from other residents. “Make (pay) cuts at the top and trickle the money down.”
Ballot Issue 4B
Colorado Springs District 11 is hoping voters will approve a $350 million tax-free bond that would be a crucial asset in its $1 billion Facilities Master Plan, a long-range measure with an aim toward enhancing and modernizing learning spaces in the city’s oldest school district.
The bond, if approved, would also help the district begin to chip away at an estimated $700 million in necessary repairs, officials said.
“We have an aging infrastructure,” said project manager Josh Chism. “This plan seeks to provide improved spaces for our children to learn and grow in.”
The architects and planners who built current D-11 schools could not have imagined the evolving needs of the 21st century student, said campaign strategist Anthony Carlson.
“Those schools were built to last a generation,” Carlson said. “But that generation has come and gone. Now it’s time to build schools that are going to last for another generation.”
Ballot Issue 4C
Manitou Springs School District 14 is looking to build a new middle school, renovate its high school, add safety and security improvements, and upgrade its playgrounds and athletic fields.
The proposed $43 million bond will provide much-needed infrastructural improvements to a district that will celebrate its 150th birthday next year, officials said. The bond will also provide the “matching money” needed in order to receive nearly $9 million in state funding under the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, program.
Manitou Springs resident Steve Rauch said he’s fine with going into debt in order to receive the BEST program funding, but he thinks the tax implications of a $43 million bond will be “devastating” to residents and businesses, he said.
“There was no poll or no contact with the chamber, the mayor’s office, businesses and residents to see how much people thought they could afford,” Rauch said.
Ballot Issues 4D and 5A
Harrison School District 2 and Peyton School District 23-JT are asking voters to approve measures that will allow them to keep revenues in excess of the limits imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
TABOR limits the amount of revenue a district can receive in a given year. The limit is recalculated each year based on the previous year’s revenue and the change in student population.
Harrison and Peyton district officials said 176 of the state’s 179 school districts are “de-TABORed.” Peyton is asking that the TABOR-imposed limit be lifted for eight years; Harrison would like to see it permanently lifted.