Our View: Yes on Referendums 3A and 3B | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Yes on Referendums 3A and 3B

The thought of a tax increase during our current economic struggles might seem like an impossibility for some local families. But so, too, does the dire fiscal situation facing our public school districts, including those serving South Routt and Hayden children.

To help stem the tide of decreasing revenues and budget cuts, both districts are asking their voters to approve short-term property tax increases. Individually, the impact on most residents and businesses would be relatively small.

Collectively, the revenue generated by the increases would help each school system manage through significant budget cuts and potential program reductions.

It’s particularly important to note that both tax increases are short-term; Hayden’s would expire after four years, and South Routt’s would expire after five years.

We urge voters in South Routt to support Referendum 3A, and voters in Hayden to support Referendum 3B.

For South Routt School District voters, Referendum 3A would raise $354,357 annually. According to the ballot language, funds would be used to “maintain current education programs that promote student achievement; attract, train and retain high-quality teachers and support staff; maintain small class sizes; maintain district buildings and grounds; and replace reduced state funding.” The additional revenues would not be limited to those uses.

The district based in Oak Creek already has eaten into its cash reserves, cut an administrative position and froze faculty and staff salaries to make up for a 7.75 percent decrease in revenue this year.

The property tax annually would cost residential property owners about $17 per $100,000 of assessed value; commercial property owners about $61 per $100,000 of assessed value; and agriculture property owners about $31 per $50,000 of assessed value.

Hayden’s schools have seen cuts of about $420,000 from the 2010-11 operating budget. The cuts were brought on by a 6.4 percent decrease in state funding, increased costs of employee health insurance and retirement benefits, a salary step increase for employees, and a projected decrease in student enrollment.

Colorado’s public schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, so fewer students means less money.

However, fewer students doesn’t necessarily mean districts can cut expenses at the same rate.

For example, five fewer students doesn’t always warrant or allow for a staff reduction.

Hayden restructured its administration, increased some student fees, contracted bus maintenance and inspection services to the Moffat County School District, reduced staff positions, and implemented three furlough days.

School officials warn that while many of this year’s cuts were away from the classroom, that probably won’t be the case in subsequent years.

Referendum 3B would raise $321,473 a year for four years, and then go away.

Similar to its South Routt counterpart, Hayden says the additional revenues would be used to maintain small class sizes, attract and retain highly qualified teachers and staff, and provide adequate maintenance, upgrades and renovation of facilities and equipment.

The cost to residential property owners would be about $24.79 for every $100,000 of assessed value. The cost to commercial property owners is $90.31 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The budget situation for all Colorado school districts will be much worse if voters approve Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 on Nov. 2. We already have urged residents to vote down those three poorly thought out initiatives.

We understand the lack of appetite for more taxes. Times are exceedingly difficult for many families, and we’ve all had to make difficult choices on where and how we spend our hard-earned money. But we cannot further compromise the quality of education we provide our children.

Vote yes on Referendums 3A and 3B.

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