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Fading chalk decorations at the entrance of Vista Ridge High School welcome students in this Sept. 1, 2021 photo.

Colorado Springs-area residents mostly voted against ballot issues aimed at increasing teacher pay, renovating schools and refurbishing athletic facilities.

Ballot Issue 4A

District 49 voted a resounding “No” to Ballot Issue 4A, a proposed $8.6 million tax increase to fund a pay increase for teachers and other staff members. More than 11,000 people voted against the issue.

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.

“Natural gas prices are up, gasoline prices are up, property taxes are increasing, and people are losing their shirts,” countered Jamilynn D’Avola, who was elected to D-49’s school board over incumbent Dave Cruson. “We can find other avenues of paying our teachers with funds the district already has.”

D’Avola, the lone candidate to go on record against the tax increase, listed the district’s Equity Leadership Advisory Council among unnecessary expenditures whose funds could be used to finance a pay raise.

Ballot Issue 4B

Colorado Springs District 11 was hoping voters would 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 measure was defeated by a little more than 400 votes, early returns suggested.

The bond would have helped the district begin to chip away at an estimated $700 million in necessary repairs, officials said.

Ballot Issue 4C

Manitou Springs School District 14 voters said “No” to a proposed $43 million bond that would have provided infrastructural improvements to a district that will celebrate its 150th birthday next year. The bond would have also provided the “matching money” needed in order to receive nearly $9 million in state funding under the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, program.

The measure was defeated by fewer than 400 votes, according to early returns.

Manitou Springs resident Steve Rauch said he would have been 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 were successful in their respective bids to pass measures that will allow them to keep revenues in excess of the limits imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR. Harrison voters passed Issue 4D by about 1,500 votes. District 23-JT passed Issue 5A by nearly 200 votes, according to early returns.

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 joined 176 of the state’s 179 school districts that were “de-TABORed.”

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