A Christmas present for Colorado schools

Armed with new forecasts for state revenue, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday proposed restoring nearly $90 million of cuts that had been set for K-12 public education next year.

That’s welcome news for public schools throughout the state, including School District 51 here in Mesa County.

Additionally, because the governor is also proposing to restore part of a senior-citizens property tax credit that had previously been cut, and to return some of the money lost in the severance tax fund that goes to local communities, the governor’s budget announcement also is positive news for other individuals and entities in this region.

The governor’s budget proposal is just a recommendation, of course. The state Legislature develops and adopts the budget, but gubernatorial recommendations usually play a significant role in that effort.

Additionally, before a final budget is adopted, lawmakers will consider revenue projections issued next March. They could change from the upbeat projections issued this week.

But this week’s numbers aren’t based on pie-in-the-sky optimism. The foundation for these numbers are sustained job growth throughout the state, declining unemployment claims and continued improvement in the manufacturing and oil and gas sectors of the economy.

The net result is that projections for general fund revenue for the current fiscal year — which ends next June 30 — are now $231 million higher than they were in September.

For the fiscal year that begins July 1, the Office of State Planning and Budgeting projects very modest growth rate of 1.1 percent. That cautious project is due to concerns about ongoing financial problems in Europe that may do further harm to the global economy, and continued volatility in the stock market, the governor’s office said in a press release about the revenue projections.

If the forecasts for this fiscal year hold true, and the Legislature follows Hickenlooper’s recommendation, $89 million would be restored to K-12 education through the state. That means School District 51 likely wouldn’t have to cut as much as previously projected from the budget for the next school year.

The additional revenue Hickenlooper is proposing wouldn’t come close to making up for the $28 million District 51 has been forced to carve from its budget the past three years. But it’s certainly better than District 51 having to cut as much as $10 million from next year’s budget, as had been suggested based on previous forecasts.

Here’s hoping the latest Colorado revenue projections prove to be an indication of an ongoing, upward economic trend. And let’s hope that state lawmakers heed Hickenlooper’s recommendations for using that additional revenue.e_SClB


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