Campaign committees supporting proposed school district tax increases around the state have raised nearly $340,000, according to reports filed with the secretary of state this week.
The biggest donors were construction companies, bond advisors, real estate developers and education unions, who contributed more than half the $338,888 given to campaign committees in 20 districts.
Some two-dozen districts are seeking about $1.5 billion in property tax increases for construction projects and increased operating funds. (Get full details in this Chalkbeat Colorado story.)
The biggest war chests have been raised by committees supporting multi-million bond issues in two rapidly growing districts, Falcon in El Paso County and Brighton in Adams County.
Significant sums also have been raised by committees backing tax proposals in the Adams 12-Five Star, Boulder Valley and Mapleton districts.
In Falcon, Citizens for District 49 has raised $85,000 and spent $62,130. About half the contributions – $40,000 – has come from an independent expenditure committee named the Committee for Colorado Education Reform. That group, in turn, has been funded by MREC Oakwood CO Ranch LLC, a partnership that is developing the Banning Lewis Ranch, a large development in the district.
The committee also has received $25,000 from Falcon Community Builders for Classrooms, a construction-industry related group, and $20,000 from Stifel Nicholaus, an investment banking company that works with school districts.
Falcon is seeking voter approval for a $107.4 million bond issue to build new schools.
In Brighton, the IAM27J committee has raised $66,668 and spent $50,173. Large contributions include $3,500 from the Brighton Education Association, $4,000 from JHL Constructors and $10,000 from Oakwood Homes. (Oakwood is a partner in the Banning Lewis Ranch development referenced above.)
The district is proposing a $148 million bond issue for new schools and other projects.
Residential development in the two districts has sparked significant enrollment growth. Falcon grew from 8,660 students in 2003 to 18,880 in 2013, rising from 19th to 14th on the list of districts as ranked by enrollment. Brighton ballooned from 8,265 to 16,698 students in the same period, rising from 21st to 16th.
Both districts have a mixed history of persuading voters to pay for new buildings to hold all those students. A $125 million Falcon bond issue failed in 2010, and the last bond to pass was $28 million in 2001.
Over the last 14 years Brighton has passed three bond issues totaling $167.4 million but lost three others totaling $241.5 million.
Fundraising in other districts
The third largest amount of money, $58,020, has been raised by Citizens for Adams 12 Schools, which is backing the district’s $220 million bond and $15 million override. The largest contributions include $20,000 from real estate company WS-ACB Development, $17,000 from Stifel Nicolaus, $10,000 from Adophson & Petersen construction company, $5,000 from the district classified employees association and $4,000 from the Colorado Education Association.
In addition to Adams 12 and Brighton, three other districts in western Adams County have tax measures on the ballot. (Get details on those and all district tax proposals in the spreadsheet at the bottom on this story.)
In Adams 14 the We Believe committee has raised $10,259 and spent $5,451. RBC Capital Markets gave $2,500.
In Mapleton the Yes for Mapleton group has raised $17,415 and spent $14,279. Major contributions include $10,000 from Mountain States Toyota, which is in the district, and a combined $4,500 from construction firm Neenan Co. and three executives.
There’s no campaign committee in Westminster, where the district is requesting a $20 million bond. (State laws bars districts from spending public money in support of ballot issues, so independent campaign committees are formed in some, but not all, districts.)
The Boulder Valley school district is proposing this year’s largest tax measure, a $576.4 million bond issue. District enrollment — 30,546 in 2013 — has grown only about 10 percent in the last decade. But district leaders say years of budget cuts and deferred maintenance require the large bond issue.
The Yes on 3A committee has raised $33,623, including donations of $4,000 from CEA, $2,000 each from two executives of Adolphson & Peterson and $1,500 from the Boulder Valley Education Association, along with a large number of smaller individual donations. The committee has spent $24,021.
Cheyenne Mountain is the only other district where a campaign committee has raised more than $10,000. All of that money has come from relatively small individual and business contributions.
Overall contributions to district campaigns fluctuate election-to-election depending mostly on how many big districts have measures on the ballot. In 2012, the most recent election with a large number of districts on the ballot, nearly $1 million had been raised by mid-October. Aurora, Cherry Creek, Denver and Jefferson County all had proposals before voters. There also were a large number of district ballot issues in 2011, but the only big district was Douglas County, and mid-October fundraising totaled only about $263,000.
The next reporting deadline is Oct. 31.
This spreadsheet includes information gathered by the Colorado School Finance Project as of Oct. 6.