Coloradans to consider amending state constitution to better fund education | CraigDailyPress.com

Coloradans to consider amending state constitution to better fund education

CRAIG — If Colorado voters choose to support a new provision to the state constitution, local schools could see state funding substantially increase.

If adopted, Amendment 73 would modify the flat state income tax rate to establish income tax brackets, raise state income taxes for those earning more than $150,000 per year, and raise the corporate income tax rate.

Proponents say that 92 percent of taxpayers will see no increase in personal income tax, while the top 8 percent of Colorado tax filers would pay a graduated income tax. They add that a 1.37-percent tax increase on C corporations would move Colorado from third- to ninth-lowest corporate tax rate of the 44 states that impose a corporate tax.

The measure would also freeze the residential assessment rate, already the third-lowest in the nation, and reduce the non-residential assessment rate, resulting in a decrease in property tax assessment for all property owners.

"As a district committed to our mission to inspire and educate students to thrive in an environment of change, I am excited about the possibility of receiving approximately $2.6 million in additional operating funds for Moffat County School District," said Superintendent Dave Ulrich. "If Amendment 73 passes, our schools will receive these funds without raising local property taxes."

A new fund — the Quality Education Fund — established from income tax revenue would be used to do the following.

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• Increase statewide base per-pupil funding to $7,300

• Increase state funding beyond the fiscal year 2018-2019 levels for the following programs by the amounts specified.

– Special education by $120 million.

– English language proficiency programs by $20 million;

– Gifted and talented programs by $10 million; and

– Preschool funding by $10 million.

The amounts noted above would be adjusted for inflation each year, beginning in fiscal year 2020-2021.

School districts would determine how best to use the additional money, based on the needs of each district.

"We will look to the direction provided by our 5-Year Strategic Plan to determine how best to utilize the new money," Ulrich said.

Path to the ballot

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced in a news release that Amendment 73 is the first of a possible seven citizen-initiated ballot measure to make the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Six other initiatives are still under review. The results of the review must be announced by Sept. 5.

Colorado law requires that ballot-measure backers provide valid voter signatures in support of the measure representing 5-percent of the total of votes cast for all candidates in the last secretary of state general election, which was in 2014.

In addition, the voter-approved Amendment 71 in 2016 changed the requirements for proposed constitutional amendments, requiring supporters to collect 2-percent of their signatures in each of the state’s 35 senate districts, which they did.

Pros and cons

To pass, the education measure must receive a 55-percent majority, rather than a simple majority of favorable votes.

"This historic initiative is designed to help the state's underfunded schools and ensure every community across Colorado benefits from the state's booming economy. The measure empowers local school districts, enabling them to determine the highest priorities for much-needed revenue," according to a news release from the Great Schools to Thriving Communities campaign.

Opponents, such as the Douglas County Republicans, think the language is too extreme, creating a "tax increase for life." The group states that, "if Amendment 73 passes, it will tax some Coloradans an additional $1.6 billion, annually, and economists predict we will be in the hook for an additional $260 million a year, with no end in sight for tax raises."

While many local organizations and political bodies have yet to take a position on the amendment, the Colorado Education Association — representing educators across the state — note in their declaration of support that Colorado has one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation, but spends $2,000 less per student, on average, compared to the rest of the country.

Revenue generated by Amendment 73 would bring Colorado closer to the national average in school funding.

Teacher pay is also rated well below the national average, said CEA officials, and schools struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers. Many districts, including Moffat County, start the school year with unfilled positions. Increased funding would make resources available for school districts to offer more competitive compensation.

"We hope our community will support Moffat County School District and vote “yes” on Amendment 73," Ulrich said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.