From the April Newsletter: Ballot measures considered by board to help support schools

On April 4, 2017, District 51 School Board members discussed the possibility of placing a bond measure and/or mill levy override question on the November 2017 ballot. Following numerous discussions over the past year with school and district staff, community members, and each other, the board made a tentative list of items for proposed ballot questions.

Bond measures are limited to capital costs. The potential bond list includes:

  • A replacement building for Orchard Mesa Middle School
  • Priority 1 maintenance needs (repairs that, if left undone, could result in building failure) in numerous school buildings
  • Security infrastructure
  • Technology
  • A gym for Dual Immersion Academy
  • The ability to retire Certificates of Participation used to build R-5 High School/Summit School Program

A mill levy override can be used for a broader range of operation costs. The board’s suggested list for a mill levy override question includes:

  • Reinstating five school days lost during recession-era cuts
  • More support for curriculum purchases
  • More support for maintenance
  • Ongoing support for technology

Board members plan to visit each school again this spring and make a final decision about ballot questions this summer. In the meantime, check out these answers to some questions you may have.


What is the difference between a bond measure and a mill levy override?

Bond measures can only be used for construction, infrastructure, and maintenance projects specified for voters in a ballot question. A mill levy override can be used for broader purposes, but still only those listed in the ballot question.

Bond = Capital

Mill = Operations

Both collect property tax revenue that stays in Mesa County, rather than going to the state to be thrown into the School Funding Formula for all districts.


How did the D51 School Board make these lists?

Items were picked based on the positive impact they will have on students by equipping them with better learning tools and safer, more functional, better-quality learning environments. There is also an urgency to obtaining these items, but funding is not currently available for them. Districts may be able to move thousands in a budget, but not millions, which is what most of these items require.


Aren’t marijuana taxes helping schools?

Not here. Schools can receive marijuana tax funding through grants for just three things:

  • School construction
  • School behavioral health, or
  • Drug resistance education programs

District 51 has a $155,000 grant that funds our Pathways drug resistance program, but that’s it for marijuana tax funds in local schools.

The district has applied for B.E.S.T. (Building Excellent Schools Today) construction grants that get the first $40 million from recreational marijuana excise tax collections. We have always been denied, even though whether a county has recreational marijuana sales or not has no bearing on who receives a B.E.S.T. grant. The district applied this year for a B.E.S.T. grant to rebuild Orchard Mesa Middle School. Grant recipients will be announced in May. The grant would require local matching funds.


Can school districts raise sales taxes?

No. The state funding that school districts receive includes a mix of state sales tax, cigarettes tax, and other state tax revenue, but school districts can only seek tax increases for property tax.


Do schools get more if property values increase?

No – an increase in the assessed value of a home or business does not change how much funding a school district receives. If a district collects more or less property tax revenue, it only means the state will have to contribute less or more money to provide a district with the amount the state has already decided a district will get through the state funding formula for school districts.


How does the district spend its money now?

Budgets and other financial information is posted at in the Financial Transparency section. The district has chopped more than $40 million and more than 175 jobs from its budget since 2009.


How can districts use bond/mill override money?

Only for the exact purposes listed in the ballot question. The one exception would be when there is money left over, as was the case with the 2004 ballot measure (the most recent to pass in D51). In that case, the district used remaining bond measure dollars to build Chipeta Elementary.