Moffat County educators disappointed by failure of Amendment 73
November 8, 2018
CRAIG — Moffat County voters were clear in their opposition to tax increases when they went to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 6, and among the taxing initiatives facing defeat was Amendment 73.
It proposed to change the way public education is funded by establishing a progressive state income tax schedule, increase the corporate income tax rate for C-corporations, decrease the property tax rate for school district levies, and establish a Quality Public Education Fund to set aside revenues generated by the new taxes to fund preschool through 12th-grade.
Moffat County voters rejected the proposal with 3,611, or 69.03 percent, voting against, compared to 1,620, or 30.97 percent, voting for the amendment.
The local result was in step with the rest of the state. Across Colorado, voters rejected Amendment 73 by a 54.88 percent to 45.12 percent margin. The amendment would have needed a super majority of 55 percent to pass.
"We are obviously disappointed in the results for Amendment 73. I’m proud of our teachers, other staff members, and board members who worked so hard to engage the local community," said Superintendent Dave Ulrich.
Had the measure passed, it would have meant an estimated 1.6 billion in additional funding for public schools across the state. Moffat County School District stood to gain about $2.6 million annually.
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"Our current students have never attended a fully funded public school in their lifetimes," said Educator and Moffat County Education Association President Lauren Pontious-Powell.
Separate from the operating budget, roughly $17 million is needed for deferred maintenance, to replace aging equipment, to replace the old bus fleet, and address a long list of capitol needs based on a Colorado Department of Education Building Better Schools Today audit of public schools in Moffat County.
"I have communicated a clear message that the status quo cannot be maintained. We consistently live within our means operationally and have made difficult choices to provide new and better opportunities for our students. However, we are woefully behind in meeting our capital needs," Ulrich said
Funds totaling more than $7.4 billion that should have gone to Colorado's schools have been "withheld" since 2009, Pontious-Powell said. "The funding shortfalls have taken learning opportunities away from students and led to a massive educator shortage and the least-competitive teacher wages in the country."
School District Executive Director of Staff Services and Personnel Renae Dove has said teacher compensation is not competitive, making recruitment and retention of teachers, especially for positions requiring special certifications, increasingly difficult.
In the short term, the district will continue to look to the school board to prioritize where dollars are spent.
"We have a lot of work to do to begin to prioritize how we are going to go forward. We have a strategic plan and goals, and to the best that we can, we will try to fulfill goals," said school board President JoAnn Baxter.
Over the longer term, the campaign to better fund Colorado schools isn't over.
"As educators, we are resolute in our purpose to serve our Moffat County and Colorado families, and we will come together for all kids," Pontious-Powell said. "Our work will continue, and we will find another way forward in the 2019 legislative session or on a future ballot."
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.