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Voters to decide on $550 million plan to fund Douglas County schools

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Douglas County school board members unanimously voted to place two questions on the November ballot that would go toward funding schools.

A $66 million mill levy proposal would pay teachers more money, while a $484 million bond would go toward school and security improvements. The questions are already sparking a lot of conversation.

It’s no secret that teachers, especially here in Colorado, are not paid well. Some folks living in the county where these questions are being raised want the schools to look for other funding methods.

“The language says, ‘Shall your taxes be raised?’ I don’t think it has a really good shot of passing,” said FOX31 political analyst Michael Fields, a Republican strategist. “Which I think instead of taking all this time as a district to talk about how to increase taxes at the worst possible time, they should be focusing in on: How do you make sure kids are learning more and the school district is getting stronger?”

Fields works on a lot of proposals regarding taxes in Colorado. He is vehemently against the Douglas County Board of Education’s decision in a year when the average county resident saw property tax assessment rates increase by an average of 47%.

Voters rejected Douglas County mill proposal last year

One question on the ballot — the $66 million mill levy override — would increase salaries for teachers, and the $484 million bond question would go toward funding school expansions and more school resource officers.

A comparable $60 million mill levy proposal narrowly failed in Douglas County last year. Superintendent Erin Kane said this year’s property tax woes are top of mind as the board moves forward with its proposals.

“I’ve been in Douglas County for 23 years. I got the same letter that everyone else got that my property value is about to go up 60%, which is astounding. That means my property taxes could be going up greatly,” Kane said. “Our bond and mill levy override is actually a very minimal impact on taxpayers. The impact would be $200 a year for a million-dollar home. So $200 a year for a $1 million home is about a Starbucks or two a month.”

Fields said those dollars add up. He believes the district can find a workaround.

“Education funding has been going up every single year. It’s something I give credit to Governor Polis for — he’s made this a priority to increase funding,” Fields said. “You saw that last year, the budget stabilization factor has almost been eliminated. It will be this next year. So Douglas County is going to see a double-digit increase to their education funding next year regardless of this passing or not. So that’s when you take that money and you put it into teacher pay.”

Fields also raised concerns about the district using resources to spread the word about the ballot questions. Kane said it’s the district’s job to educate the community.

“Where the fair campaign practices falls in is after the Board of Education makes the formal decision to place ballot initiatives on the ballot,” Kane said. “That did not happen until last night, so because that formally happened last night, that formally kicks in with the fair campaign practices. So from here on out, our district can’t spend any district resources or money on promoting the bond or mill levy override. We can, however, continue to tell taxpayers how funding works and tell them what the bond and mill levy override will cover.”

Fields said he believes voters will reject the mill levy proposal again this year, but Kane said it’s time to let the voters decide.

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