In recent editorials, The Gazette has warned that school districts across the state could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding if anti-oil and gas Proposition 112 is approved by voters in November.
As a school superintendent in Weld County, a major hub of oil and natural gas production, I feel it’s my responsibility to reinforce those warnings. I also feel compelled to explain in more detail how the damage to public education from Proposition 112 won’t be limited to areas with energy production. The pain will be felt in other parts of the state, too, including El Paso County.
My employer, the Platte Valley School District Weld Re-7 Board of Education, is opposed to Proposition 112. While Platte Valley is projected to be locally funded this year, if 112 passes then we would face a 38 percent loss in property tax revenue which would be $4.3 million, according to the Weld County Assessor. This will dramatically reduce our district’s ability to fund education and result in budget reduction affecting the quality of educational services and facilities.
Proposition 112 targets the state’s oil and natural gas sector with new setback regulations that would drastically reduce production over time — nearly 75 percent over 10 years. Tax revenues tied to that energy production are a major source of funding for education and other critical public services, especially in Weld County where our school district is.
Those revenues will drop if Proposition 112 passes. An analysis from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources shows the setbacks imposed by the ballot measure would ban drilling on 85 percent of state and private land and 94 percent of the land in Weld County and the other top four producing counties. That impact puts nearly $170 million in funding for our local schools at risk.
While our school districts would be the hardest hit in the short term, others across the state would eventually feel the impact as state equalization funding gets stretched to fill the gaps for many districts. Additionally, an analysis by the REMI Partnership shows that Proposition 112 could cause $7 billion to $9 billion lost tax revenue of all kinds across the state — including property taxes, severance taxes and corporate income taxes — over the next 12 years should the ballot measure pass. But this does not include lost personal income taxes, which will further reduce resources for state education budgets.
Colorado school districts face other funding cuts under Proposition 112 as well. The Colorado State Land Board uses revenues from state-owned mineral development to support public education. After reviewing Proposition 112, the state land board warns the ballot measure would cut that source of funding for public education programs by 60 percent, which translates to $230 million over the next three years.
In addition to classroom budget cuts, this would deal a major blow to capital construction investments under the state’s Building Excellent Schools Today program. This will make it more difficult than ever to update classrooms and facilities for many of our students locally and across the state.
The oil and gas industry over the years has been good to the Platte Valley School District, supporting programs and providing CNG vehicles. They have been cooperative in helping locate and remove wells that were close to school district facilities. I believe that the current regulatory process and actual common-sense cooperation protects the health and safety of our communities.
Proposition 112 is not the mechanism to improve our communities and regulate the oil and gas industry.
Glenn McClain is superintendent of Schools for the Platte Valley School District in Kersey. He has been superintendent for 20 years and participated in a variety of school finance efforts over his career including teaching school finance for the University of Northern Colorado. He is married to Shawna; they have three children and have lived in Kersey since 1991.