Support for an amendment that would increase funding for public schools and raise taxes for some is divided across Douglas County. While some parents, school board members and members of the faith …
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Support for an amendment that would increase funding for public schools and raise taxes for some is divided across Douglas County.
While some parents, school board members and members of the faith community have publicly backed the ballot measure, many high-profile public officials are in opposition, raising concerns over tax hikes for residents and businesses.
“It makes Colorado very unattractive to innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Pam Ridler, president of the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce.
She was one of about a dozen people who voiced their stance on the amendment during public comment at an Oct. 15 school board meeting in Castle Rock.
Amendment 73 would create a graduated income tax for people earning more than $150,000 a year, as well as raise the corporate income tax rate and lower property taxes. A new income tax bracket system would replace the state's current flat tax rate of 4.63 percent. The new taxable income tiers would apply to single, head of household and joint filers.
Those earning between $0 and $150,000 — which accounts for nearly 92 percent of taxpayers in the state — would continue to pay the flat tax rate of 4.63 percent. A person with an income of more than $150,000 would see a tax increase of 0.37, bringing the new income tax rate to 5 percent. The rate would increase by 3.62 percent for an income of more than $500,000.
Douglas County, which has a median annual household income of about $109,000, is regularly ranked among the 10 wealthiest large counties in the nation, which means there's a likelihood that a higher percentage of county residents would see their taxes rise than in most other Colorado counties.
The amendment also calls for a corporate income tax rate increase from 4.63 percent to 6 percent. The property tax rate for residential property would decrease from 7.2 percent to 7 percent, and the non-residential property rate would go from 29 percent to 24 percent.
Amendment 73 would establish a fund called the Quality Public Education Fund, which would be used to increase per-pupil spending and increase funding for special education, ELL, preschool, among other programs.
In the 2019-20 school year, if passed, the initiative would generate $1.6 billion of new revenue statewide, and per-pupil funding would go from an average of $6,769 to $7,300, according to a report by the Colorado Legislative Council Staff.
Proponents of the tax measure say the additional funds would make up for statewide cuts that have resulted in low teacher salaries and a decline in programming.
The Douglas County School District would see an additional $102.4 million, the district reports, using 2018-19 estimates from the Colorado Department of Education. Per-pupil funding would increase by $1,537.
Unlike neighboring school districts — including Jefferson County Public Schools, Cherry Creek School District and Littleton Public Schools — that have publicly announced their support for Amendment 73, DCSD has not formally taken a stance.
The district says its main focus is passing Ballot Measure 5A, a $40 million mill levy override, and Ballot Measure 5B, a $250 million bond. If voters approve the local tax initiatives, additional funds would address critical needs in the school district, including building repairs, teacher pay and programming.
“We respect and encourage voters' individual responsibility to become informed on State-level initiatives and vote accordingly,” the district's website says.
On his personal Facebook page, Board of Education President David Ray made a public post in which he explains his reasons for supporting Amendment 73. It's not the perfect solution, he says, but it is a source of revenue that impacts the least amount of taxpayers.
“Those opposing this amendment have yet to provide a better solution for adequately funding schools,” Ray wrote in the Oct. 19 post. “Amendment 73 is the result of taxpayers taking the issue into their own hands because legislators can't get the job done.”
Among those who have spoken out against Amendment 73 are the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. They say the amendment would change the Constitution of the State of Colorado, neglect future inflation and impact smaller businesses that would have a new tax rate.
“Your chamber strongly supports a well-funded and effective PreK-12 system, however, this proposal raises multiple concerns for our members as it places the burden of funding education on the backs of our smallest businesses, threatening their ability to succeed,” the South Metro Chamber said in a statement.
Sandra Brownrigg, a Douglas County parent and former chair of the District Accountability Committee, supports the local bond and mill levy override, but Amendment 73, she said, impacts her short-term priorities of paying for her son's college and her retirement.
“It's simply personal to me,” Brownrigg said during public comment at the Oct. 16 school board meeting. “It divides us without solving the problem of education sustainability.”
Adrian Miller, executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches, which represents 13 Christian congregations across the state, disagrees. His organization supports the amendment.
“We believe that in today's society, having a comprehensive public education system is so vitality important,” Miller said at the school board meeting. “Especially to our children on the margins.”
On Nov. 6, voters will decide on Amendment 73, which needs 55 percent of votes to pass.
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