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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 and the Mill Levy Override … You Decide

No local issue is more volatile than the Falcon School District 49’s decision to put before the voters a mill levy override this November to alleviate the overcrowding issues that have plagued the school district.The school board voted unanimously on Aug. 31 to approve the resolution. “We have looked at all options over the last three years and frankly this is the only viable one that will provide the buildings that we need,” said Board President Paul Bryant. “We do not have the bonding capacity to meet our needs.”Bonding is the traditional method of raising capital construction funds for schools. However, D 49 is in a unique position where residential growth has far outpaced commercial growth, which has a major impact on bonding capabilities. Commercial and industrial tax dollars account for only 20 percent of D 49’s operating revenues versus 50 percent for the average Colorado school district. Coupled with the inequities of the state funding formula, D 49 is going back to the voters this November with a mill levy override request.The PROThe following reasons, compiled by Alicia Littlejohn, given for the mill levy are based on an interview with D 49 Superintendent Steven Hull and comments from several D 49 meetings.D 49 has construction needs of $116 million. The mill levy will address $80.5 million and the builders will contribute an additional $20 million. The total amount will be capped at $156 million over 25 years – it is not a blank check. The funds will only be used for construction and will be overseen by a citizens review committee. All building construction and additions will be completed by fall 2007.The tax increase will be $6.50 per $100,000 of assessed home value. For a $250,000 home, the cost will be $16.25 per month. Certificates of Participation (COPs) are legal and the district recently paid off a COP that was used to build Stetson Hills Elementary School. The difference is insignificant between a COP and a bond. A COP will cost $1.00 more annually than a bond.A mill levy override does not violate TABOR. Citizens will vote for or against the mill levy increase.The school district has a proven track record of using public funds exactly the way it was presented. The school district came in on time and under budget with the last monies requested for construction from the taxpayer, allowing several other capital improvements to existing schools.The need is so compelling that the school board would have been irresponsible to propose any less than a mill levy override. Forty local developers and builders are endorsing it.The CONNo 3-AVoters rejected this tax increase twice already. Hold firm. Do you want a 25 percent-plus property tax increase? Last year, D-49 promised that if their Mill Levy override lost again, they would not ask a third time. They broke their promise. Last year, they “needed” $272 million. Not true either; now they ask $156 million. Can we believe them? No.Issue 3-A contains a secret debt increase, borrowing tens of millions without voter approval. What is the interest rate, maximum loan amount, due date, etc? It does not say. Would you take out a loan or mortgage with secret terms? No.This secret debt violates state law limiting D-49 total debt. It also violates the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requirement of voter approval for debt. We’ll pay higher interest to lenders because of riskier debt, like that used in the county jail and courthouse controversies. If 3-A lands in court, schools won’t be built for five years. Only lawyers will win. Even D-49’s finance director admitted it is legally “risky.” Don’t gamble with our children’s education.3-A is vague. What is the project priority order, student capacities, completion dates, price tags, cost overruns, etc? Why build two new high schools and only one elementary? When construction is completed, our elementary schools will remain badly overcrowded with enrollment exceeding capacity by 356 students based on 2005 student census. Sounds like we are being set up for an additional tax increase in a few years.D-49 REJECTED $20 million from Developers for school construction because their condition was to ask voters openly for a Bond. D-49, preferring to reach deep into the taxpayer’s pocket for a massive tax increase, turned it down. Only after public pressure did D-49 come back to the table. D-49 revenue quadrupled in ten years, almost twice as fast as enrollment. Where did the money go? Why is 40 percent of D-49’s budget spent on administration and overhead?Even if your $200,000 house never again rose in value (unlikely), your total cost for this tax is $4,960. After each reappraisal, won’t your home value and property tax be MORE?The citizen review committee is a meaningless safeguard. Board-picked, it lacks power to stop wasteful spending and must even wait a FULL YEAR to report misconduct! Moreover, 3-A has no taxpayer refund provision in the event funds are diverted to unknown projects.D-49 needs to tighten their belt at the administrative level. Let’s elect a school Board of fiscal conservatives who will cut wasteful spending and overhead before we commit to $156 million, almost half of which is for interest, which builds nothing. VOTE NO on ISSUE 3-A.D49 Parents and Teachers for Responsible School Funding – Colorado Issue

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