Colorado’s colleges usually are not funded equitably. Denver Post reporters illustrated the disparity final Sunday by heading to rural southern Colorado, the place one school district receives $5,000 much less per scholar than a district an hour’s drive away.
The reporting laid naked Colorado’s school funding debacle after which outlined one promising proposal this legislative session that would fix the issue.
Primero School District in Las Animas County enjoys one of many highest property-tax bases within the state (an assessed worth of virtually $350 million thanks to oil and fuel operations), but the state pays for 44 p.c of the district’s per- pupil prices.
Nearby Sierra Grande School District in Costilla County has a a lot decrease property-tax base (an assessed worth of $127 million), but the state solely pays for 31 p.c of the district’s per-pupil price.
The result’s a double-whammy: Property homeowners within the wealthier district pay comparatively much less in property taxes however get extra state funding.
Colorado’s school finance system is meant to present for precisely the alternative; it’s meant to use state to be sure that much less prosperous areas obtain a better share of state assets. How did it get so backward?
It has to do with the difficult interaction of Colorado’s constitutional amendments coping with taxes. Suffice it to say, nevertheless, that property taxes in rich districts have been ratcheting down for years: Primero School District taxpayers pay nearly 15 mills to elevate $113 million for the district, whereas Sierra Grande School District property homeowners pay 32 mills to elevate $2 million for the district.
So, shouldn’t the state be backfilling Sierra Grande extra?
Well, among the mills being raised in Primero are exterior of the calculus of the state finance system. Those are protected income often called a “mill levy override” so the state can’t contemplate that income when it’s calculating how a lot it owes the district.
The Denver Post discovered that a hypothetical home-owner with a home value $348,900 is paying $148 in school taxes in Primero and would pay $806 on a home with the identical worth in Sierra Grande.
But our hearts damage extra for the scholars than the taxpayers in Sierra Grande as a result of the tip result’s that per pupil the district has $13,490 to spend, in contrast to greater than $18,000 in Primero.
Rep. Bob Rankin has an thought for a way to fix it. One that’s truthful and sensible, however is just not going to be common in districts that get pleasure from artificially low property tax charges and artificially excessive state contributions.
It’ll take political will from everybody within the General Assembly this yr to lastly fix this injustice.
Lawmakers have tried earlier than, however these efforts have been tied to statewide tax improve so cash isn’t taken from prospering districts to give to the poor, however moderately new income is used to carry the poorer districts up to a degree enjoying area.
Voters in Colorado have rejected these plans twice now.
It’s time to contemplate a answer that redistributes state to the locations that want it essentially the most — rob from the wealthy to give to the poor. If Rankin pulls this off, he’ll be a modern-day Robin Hood.
The bravery to do such a factor may come from the Joint Budget Committee the place Rankin, a Republican, is working together with his 5 colleagues on a proposal.
“It’s clear there is a huge problem with how we do school finance in our state,” Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, instructed The Post. “I think the JBC should absolutely take the lead on trying to get us out of this mess.”
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