Relative handful of districts seeking tax hikes

Updated Sept. 9 – Some 20 Colorado school districts are asking for local tax increases in the Nov. 5 election, according to a preliminary list compiled by the Colorado School Finance Project.

The 2012 election saw voters in 29 Colorado school districts approve 34 bond issues and operating revenue increases – plus one sales tax hike – worth just over $1 billion. The 38 proposals on last year’s ballots totaled about $1.03 billion; the amount approved was about $1.01 billion.

This year it looks like districts are seeking only about $140 million in tax support, and $80 million of that would involve continuation of existing taxes, not new levies.

District requests were expected to be down significantly this year to avoid competing with Initiative 22, the proposed $950 state income tax increase that would raise K-12 funding statewide. (That proposal isn’t formally on the ballot yet. The Department of State has until Wednesday to announce whether the proposal has sufficient valid signatures to make the ballot. Supporters are confident they will make the cut.)

The finance project’s initial was issued Sept. 3. Since then two additional proposals have been surfaced, a Lake County $235,000 override proposal in Lake County and a proposed $790,000 override in Meeker. A campaign committee, Yes on 3B, has been formed in the Elizabeth School District in support of an unspecified bond issue.

Here’s a list of projects that were on the initial list:

Bond issue and tax override for operating expenses

  • Canon City – $5.4 million bond issue for building upgrades, $1.3 million override for academic needs

Bond issues

  • Fort Morgan – $18.2 million bond issue, $11 million for a BEST match and $7.2 million for other projects
  • Littleton – $80 million for general upgrades (no tax-rate increase due to refinancing of existing debt)

Bonds to match Building Excellent Schools Today grants

  • Creede – $7.4 million
  • Haxtun – $3.2 million
  • Kim – $2.7 million
  • Limon – $7 million
  • Moffat – $4.5 million
  • South Conejos – $5.5 million

Tax overrides

  • Bennett – $300,000 four-year increase for technology and new buses
  • Cotopaxi – $250,000 for a variety of building and academic needs
  • East Grand – $400,000 for technology upgrades
  • Estes Park – $750,000 general increase (if this and the statewide K-12 tax both pass, the local increase won’t go into effect)
  • Lewis-Palmer – $4.5 million for a variety of academic needs
  • Kit Carson – $175,000 general increases that will go into effect only if statewide K-12 tax passes
  • Westminster – $5.2 million for various instructional upgrades
  • Wiley – $100,000 for general academic needs

The Cheyenne County district also indicated it was seeking an override but didn’t provide details.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.