In a nail-biter, Westminster school district voters narrowly support education tax measure

In a close call, Westminster’s $9.9 million measure to increase local funding for schools gained enough support to pass.

Results posted Wednesday showed 51 percent of votes in favor of local measure 4A and 49 percent against. At one point, just seven votes separated the two sides, but the margin widened overnight. A mandatory recount is triggered when the difference is one half of one percent of the number of votes cast for the higher vote count, according to officials from the Secretary of State’s office. While close, the race is safely out of that range.

Superintendent Pam Swanson, in her communication to staff and the community, credited the district’s latest academic improvements stating, “I think we earned that trust by the work we have done in the classroom.”

The district’s $9.9 million request will have among the largest financial impacts on property owners compared with other metro area requests. If passed, the measure would cost homeowners about $103 per $100,000 of a home’s value each year.

Westminster has long sought increased local funding, with no success. Its last attempt was in 2014. The district hasn’t approved a tax increase in the form of a mill levy override since 2002.

“It has taken us a few years to get to the point that we have had the support of our community,” said Ryan McCoy, the president of the school board, in a released statement. “It has been an uphill battle, but WPS is resilient and we have always put the kids first.

This year, officials said their polling showed higher public support than in years past, but did not disclose the details.

District officials said the measure would pay to expand vocational and career programs, create partnerships with organizations for additional programs, improve teacher salaries, hire mental health professionals and counselors, and improve safety and security, including by:

  • Hiring new campus monitors for elementary schools and providing new training for existing monitors
  • Redesigning schools to have double-door entryways, cameras, and door locks
  • Expanding a visitor ID check system to all schools

James Duffy, the district’s chief operating officer, said the board is also considering using about half of the new funds to get approximately $65 million for those building improvements by issuing certificates of participation, a way for school districts and other public agencies to borrow money for construction.

District officials had hoped they would also have additional revenue from Amendment 73, a statewide tax increase for schools. However, board members said the district’s needs shouldn’t wait or depend on state voters, who ultimately rejected the tax measure 45 to 55.