School’s first fall forum

Board members reach out to community about proposed bond and mill levy ballot measures

Posted 10/3/16

Caroline Fuller, whose children attend Wheat Ridge High School, came away from a recent community forum about Jeffco Schools’ proposed bond and tax rate increase still searching for more information.

“I’m looking for a reason to feel …

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School’s first fall forum

Board members reach out to community about proposed bond and mill levy ballot measures

Posted

Caroline Fuller, whose children attend Wheat Ridge High School, came away from a recent community forum about Jeffco Schools’ proposed bond and tax rate increase still searching for more information.

“I’m looking for a reason to feel enthusiastic about 3A and 3B,” she said. “I want to support something for the schools, but I don’t have a warm and fuzzy about it yet.”

With just six weeks until decision time, Fuller, like many residents, still are unsure about how to vote.

Fewer than 20 people — many of whom were district employees — attended the Sept. 28 meeting at Wheat Ridge High School, the first of five fall community forums with the Jeffco Board of Education to discuss how the $33 million mill levy override and $535 million bond will enhance programming and opportunities for students.

The bond is 3B and would provide funds for improvements and repairs to schools. The mill levy override is 3A and would provide funding to attract and retain teachers, mental health staff and help cover state funding gaps.

The measures are on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot. Together, they would increase residential taxes by $49.44 a year for every $100,000 in home value. Non-residential properties would pay an additional $180.36 a year for every $100,000 of property value.

“What we’re asking for is the ability to take control of our own destiny and get some stable funding,” said board member Brad Rupert, who was at the forum with board member Ali Lasell to provide information and answer questions.

Some specific bond projects include classroom additions for middle schools related to the proposed shift of sixth grades from elementary to middle schools; and additions and renovations to gyms, weight rooms, turf fields and tennis courts at a number of high schools.

“I’m a little concerned about where we’re going because we know there will be more cuts,” Lasell said, adding that Jeffco is one of 11 Denver-metro school districts seeking bond or mill levy money this fall. “I don’t want to think about the difficult decisions we’re going to have to make if the mill and bond does not pass.”

Charter schools, which make up 10 percent of the school district, would also receive 10 percent of the funding for projects including renovations, additional parking, library additions and roof repair.

Ongoing district needs addressed by the potential mill levy override include making up for reduced state funding, employee recruitment and retention, mental health support for schools, and security and emergency management.

One-third of the mill levy override money will go toward attracting and retaining great teachers, Lasell said. “On average, our teachers are making about 19 percent less than teachers in our surrounding districts.”

The reason for that, Lasell said, is because when the recession hit, teachers opted for a pay cut instead of reducing programming at the schools or creating larger class sizes.

“Those teachers decided they were not going to let the schools feel the pain,” Lasell said. “And the idea was that when times got better, we were going to make things right.”

But teacher salary has not increased in Jeffco and the school district is seeing increasing turnover rates, Lasell said.

In 2015, the teacher turnover rate for Jeffco Schools rose 6 percent over the past two years.

“Our awesome veterans who are the people that trained our newbies and made them excellent teachers are leaving,” Lasell said. “But a lot of our teachers stayed because they are Jeffco-proud. There is something about Jeffco.”

Jeffco schools, education, 3A, 3B, Election 2016, Ali Lasell, Board of Education, facilities, Shanna Fortier

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