Vote still close for De Beque school mill levy hike

Four votes separate De Beque School District 49-JT from a mill levy override that would pump nearly half a million dollars a year into the town’s K-12 school.

With some provisional, military and dropped-off mail-in ballots left to count in Mesa County, the tide could turn for the school district’s proposed mill levy override. There were 174 “yes” votes and 177 “no” votes counted by 4 p.m. Wednesday in Mesa and Garfield counties. The override would pass if four more “yes” votes roll in and no more “no” votes are counted.

The official result should be known by Wednesday, the deadline for counting mail-in ballots from military personnel.

The district proposed the mill levy override to increase property taxes to raise an additional $485,277 annually to help overcome a $240,000 budget cut this year and another $240,000 budget cut expected next year. State budget cuts and declining enrollment have hit the district hard. The district lost 14 students this year and has a $2 million budget. The district gets $12,308 in state funding for each student it enrolls.

The district cut five staff members and enacted two staff furlough days this year. Any more cutting will be “extremely difficult for us to do,” De Beque Superintendent Marty Lucas said Wednesday.

One possible way to cut costs would be to keep kindergarten through sixth-grade students in De Beque and send middle and high school students to other districts. De Beque currently has 110 students, 41 of whom are in seventh- through 12th-grade.

Lucas said he doesn’t know what district the students would attend if District 49-JT went through with the idea. District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said he has not been contacted about taking on any students from De Beque.

The closeness of the vote didn’t surprise Lucas. Rather, he said he was surprised to learn more than a handful of voters decided to leave the measure blank.

“That puzzles us,” Lucas said.

If the measure fails, Lucas said, it’s up to the school board to decide whether the district will try another override.



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