On the Nov. 7 ballot, voters in Colorado Springs School District 11 will have another opportunity to approve a property tax increase, of $42 million annually, after a similar ballot measure was voted down in 2016.
Adopted to the ballot by the Board of Education for D-11 on Aug. 24, the annual increase in property taxes would help maintain schools, compensate teachers, update technology and more if passed.
Current property taxes provide $8,400 per student enrolled in D-11, Colorado Spring’s largest and oldest school district, and if the measure passes, the $42 million annual increase will change this to $10,000 per student, according to Glenn Gustafson, chief financial officer at D-11.
“The Mill Levy Override is absolutely essential for the urban central school district of Colorado Springs to be able to compete with the other more fluent school districts in El Paso County,” said Gustafson.
“D-11 has the oldest schools and the largest workforce and yet is rapidly falling behind the other school districts and thereby impacting our ability to compete.”
In 2016, the overall property tax revenue collected for D-11 totaled more than $110 million.
The mill levy override that was voted down in 2016 was for $27 million.
Gustafson said that approximately 26,000 students are enrolled in D-11 schools. He said the funding would mostly go toward facilities along with teacher and staff compensation in addition to paying down debt obligations ahead of time.
He said that some schools in the district operate with no air conditioning.
At other schools, pipes have burst because the average age of D-11 buildings is 50 years, said Lauren Hug, campaign strategist for Friends of D11, an issue committee that supports funding for D-11.
This would be the first significant funding increase for D-11 since 2000, Hug said.
“If you think about how much the world has changed … giving our students access to current technology is crucial to preparing them for the workforce of today and tomorrow,” Hug said.
If passed, property taxes in 2018 would increase to $14 a month for homes valued at $200,000 and $7 for homes valued at $100,000, according to Anthony Carlson, campaign manager for Friends of D11.
Gustafson said that this year’s measure is cheaper than the two measures on the 2016 ballot.
“We’re going to phase in the 10 spending plan items over about six years,” he said.
Right now, the district owes around $130 million on the 1996 and 2005 bond issues. Gustafson said that D-11 has paid off $100 million, but the new measure would allow the district to accelerate paying off the two bond issues so that by 2022 only $20 million will be left to pay, which will save taxpayers $11 million total on property taxes. If the bonds are paid off early then the district does not have to pay interest.
“The district will be able to fix the schools on an ongoing basis without debt,” Gustafson said.
Susan Edmonson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs stated in a press release released by Friends of D11 on Aug. 24 that investing in D-11 would benefit everyone.
“District 11 is essential to ensuring a thriving community and the development of a skilled, competitive workforce that’s attractive to employers,” she said.
More information about the 2017-18 Mill Levy Override plan can be found at d11.org or friendsofd11.org/plan.