Mills: District 51 won’t get more money

School District 51 won’t see any more money flow into its accounts as a result of the court ruling upholding the so-called mill-levy freeze.

The district’s $158 million budget was built on the assumption that the mill levy would be assessed under the rules established by the Legislature in 2007, so the ruling makes no changes, Superintendent Tim Mills said.

The district’s readopted budget reflects local taxes of about 29.6 percent and about 70.4 percent of state equalization and other funding, such as grants.

Before the current funding breakdown was approved, the shares were roughly 26 percent from local taxes and 74 percent from the state and other sources, Mills said.

“It’s just a shift of the burden” and has no effect on the district’s bottom line, Mills said.

The Colorado School Board Association hailed the ruling upholding the shift of revenue sources more toward local taxes and said it would help districts retain local control.

That the end result could be more independence from the state is “not something I would concur with,” Mills said.

The two Mesa County commissioners who voted to take on the Legislature and governor two years ago said they didn’t regret suing over the so-called “mill-levy freeze.”

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld the freeze, a measure that allowed the Legislature to divert more money into the state general fund that would otherwise go to local school districts.

None of the commissioners, including Steve Acquafresca, who opposed joining the lawsuit, said they were surprised by the outcome.

“I would still make the same decision again,” Commissioner Craig Meis said. “I think it’s the right fight.”

Commissioner Janet Rowland called it “a sad day for the taxpayers of Colorado” and said the “liberal Colorado Supreme Court had to ramble on for 45 pages of legalese to try and justify this shell game of a tax increase.”

Rowland and Meis voted in late 2007 to take up an offer by Denver attorney Richard Westfall to join property owners in challenging Senate Bill 199.

The commission voted not only to join in the constitutional challenge, but also to assert the county had standing to sue because it was to collect any additional local taxes for the schools.

The suit did occupy some staff analysis time and, said Acquafresca, “our board was preoccupied for way too much time, especially given the outcome.”

The suit was filed on behalf of several property owners, including Evan Gluckman, the owner of Main Street Cafe, 504 Main St., who described himself as a “left-wing Democrat.”

While he had “no hopes and aspirations” for the suit, Gluckman said he had no regrets.

His tax bill jumped by more than half when he purchased his building and his interest was financial, he said.


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