On the Issues – Election Update: School Board Seats, Jefferson County Issue 1A, and Colorado Proposition CC

The early snowfall may make you think we are in the middle of January, but we are just ending October and a week away from Election Day! This year is sometimes considered an “off” election year because there are no major statewide or national positions on the ballot. However, this year’s ballot does contain three important races that will have an impact on your community’s schools. While neither Jeffco Public Schools, nor I can take a formal position on matters on the ballot, it is our responsibility to make sure that our public is aware and engaged on these issues.

School Board Positions

Two seats on the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education are up for election this year. District 3 (covering parts of Arvada and Wheat Ridge) has two candidates, Stephanie Schooley and Robert Applegate vying for the seat formerly held by Ali Lasell, who is not seeking re-election.  District 4 (covering much of Lakewood and Edgewater) also has two candidates, Joan Chávez-Lee and Susan Miller running for the seat formerly held by Amanda Stevens, who is also not seeking re-election.

School Board races are non-partisan (candidates do not declare a party) and all Jeffco voters will have the opportunity to vote on all candidates, choosing one new board member per district. All of the candidates have worked hard this campaign season, participating in numerous forums. They have also had their views published in a number of news and online formats. I encourage everyone in Jefferson County to learn about the candidates and participate in this important election. Please see the Election 2019 webpage under Board of Education on our district website (www.jeffcopublicschools.org) for more information.

Jefferson County Ballot Issue 1A

To understand Ballot Issue 1A, we must start with a basic understanding of Colorado’s TABOR Amendment as it relates to revenue caps and refunds.

The 1992 TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) Amendment to the Colorado Constitution restricts revenue growth for all levels of government, including counties.  That limit on growth is set for counties based on the rate of inflation (the local Consumer Price Index) plus local growth (value of new construction).

If counties collect more revenue than is allowed under the TABOR formula, they must refund it back to taxpayers.

Communities can vote to bypass this revenue restriction and allow their local governments to keep and use dollars in excess of the TABOR formula rather than have them refunded. This is called “De-Brucing,” after the TABOR author Doug Bruce, and is essentially what Jeffco Ballot Issue 1A is asking voters to decide.

In Jeffco, property tax revenues have grown by approximately 5.7% while the TABOR growth cap is set at 3.83%. Unless voters approve Jeffco Ballot Issue 1A, the county will have to refund the difference.

If allowed to retain these dollars, Jeffco County Government plans to use the funds for these priorities:

  • Invest in the repair, maintenance, and safety of roads and bridges.
  • Allow the Sheriff to maintain the current number of jail beds and keep the deputy academy program.
  • Maintain the integrity of local and national elections, providing timely results.
  • Attract and retain quality county employees, including deputies and investigators.
  • Update aging technology systems and hardware and ensure the continuation of natural resource management.

A “yes” vote on Jeffco Ballot Issue 1A will allow the county a 7-year exemption from the revenue and spending limits in TABOR to avoid budget cuts in 2020 and subsequent years. Specifically, it allows the county to retain $16.1 million, which is the amount the county government has identified as the amount necessary to avoid budget cuts.

A “no” vote means that the county will provide refunds to taxpayers and will need to make spending cuts to balance its budget.

Jefferson County Government has produced a fact sheet providing more details about Ballot Issue 1A. The FOR and AGAINST arguments are included below. For more information about this election, registering to vote, and Jeffco Ballot Issue 1A visit Jefferson County’s Election Webpage.

Arguments FOR Jeffco Ballot Issue 1A Arguments AGAINST Jeffco Ballot Issue 1A
• Reinvesting these dollars will support critical services, including funding for fire mitigation efforts, repair and maintenance of the county’s vital transportation infrastructure, adequate jail beds, and patrol personnel to keep our communities safe.
• When the county reaches its TABOR revenue limit, it is forced to reject state grant dollars or cut from other programs. These rejected grant dollars are then given to other counties that are not under the same restrictions to enhance their programs and services.
• Ballot Issue 1A allows the collection up to the maximum current authorized county mill levy of 21.478, but also gives the discretion to collect less than the full amount (by temporarily reducing the mill levy) in any year that the predicted amount of excess revenue generated by the full mill levy would exceed the amount needed for county operations.
• This measure imposes an additional tax burden that will be felt by Jeffco households for several years. Approximately $9 a month/$105 a year may not seem like much to some people, but to some on tight budgets or fixed income, it makes a difference. Some families cannot afford this tax burden.
• Business property owners will see a greater increase in your tax bill because business property is taxed at a much higher rate than residential property. These additional taxes could be passed on to consumers.
• Colorado voters put TABOR in place for a reason. Jefferson County needs to follow those restrictions and work within the revenue it already receives.

Jeffco Public Schools receives a number of supports from Jefferson County Government and has numerous ongoing partnerships. Notably, the Jeffco Sheriff’s office provides extensive school safety support in the form of School Resource Officers (SROs), funded through county dollars.

The Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education has passed a resolution of support for Jeffco Ballot Issue 1A.

Colorado Proposition CC

Proposition CC is a state-wide ballot question which would allow state government to keep all the money it collects every year beginning with the 2019-20 budget year. Proposition CC would “De-Bruce” the state government and allow it to keep funds it collects over the TABOR revenue cap. Proposition CC requires that any money kept over the revenue cap be spent on public schools, higher education, and transportation projects.

A “yes” vote on Proposition CC means the state can keep all of the money it collects over its revenue limit to spend on education and transportation.

A “no” vote means that any money the state collects over its revenue limit must be returned to taxpayers.

For more information about Colorado’s Proposition CC, visit this Fact Sheet on the Colorado Legislature website. I have summarized the published arguments FOR and AGAINST below.

Arguments FOR Colorado Proposition CC Arguments AGAINST Colorado Proposition CC
Proposition CC provides more money for critical investments in Colorado’s future without raising tax rates. By allowing the state to keep the money it already collects, the measure provides needed funding for K-12 education, higher education, and transportation. While Colorado currently ranks in the top third of states in household income, it ranks in the bottom third in per-pupil public spending on both K-12 and higher education. Further, the state’s roads are deteriorating while the cost of improvements continues to increase. Addressing these challenges requires statewide investment, and Proposition CC provides revenue for these investments immediately and into the future.Proposition CC allows elected officials to make better policy decisions while preserving the citizens’ right to vote on any state tax increases. Because future tax increases will still require voter approval under the measure, state government spending will remain limited. Proposition CC simply allows the state  government to keep the money it already collects. Similar measures have been approved by voters in most Colorado counties, cities, and school districts. Proposition CC raises taxes by permanently eliminating all state TABOR refunds required by the Colorado Constitution. Taxpayers are being asked to sacrifice their refunds to pay for programs that should already be funded within the state budget. Even with the limit, the state government has already shifted money between funds and raised fees and tolls to increase its revenue faster than inflation and state population growth. Proposition CC continues to erode taxpayer protections in the Colorado Constitution. Instead of asking voters for permission to keep specific amounts of money collected above the revenue limit each year, the state government is asking voters to give up refunds of unknown amounts forever. The measure broadly directs where the new money will be spent, but the specifics can be changed in the future without voter approval. Further, while spending this new money for education and transportation, the legislature could redirect existing funds to any other purpose.  

Funding for Jeffco Public Schools is determined largely through decisions made by the state legislature in the annual general assembly. Proposition CC, if successful, would provide more resources for state government to allocate and could provide additional funding to Jeffco Public Schools.

The Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education has passed a resolution of support for Colorado Proposition CC.

Voting in these “off year” elections is just as important as a year when there are national positions at stake. As participating members in our community and Jefferson County voters, I encourage you to learn about the issues on the ballot and participate this Election Day.

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