School District 51 tax hike rejected

Mesa County residents said no Tuesday to School District 51’s $12.5 million mill levy override measure.

The district’s next step will be to return to those voters for advice about how to cut its budget.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said Tuesday evening the district will host community forums, likely in late January or February, and “engage staff” to gather ideas and test some suggestions about how to cut the district’s budget if it has to make reductions.

The override, which would have collected an estimated $12.5 million in property tax revenue annually for District 51 for the next six years, failed the same day Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered a proposed 2012–13 budget to the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee. That proposal would result in $4 million to $5 million in cuts from the state for District 51. Schultz said he isn’t relying on that figure as a final estimate, especially with more than two months before the Legislature reconvenes.

“This is so early in the game. Last year at this time Gov. Ritter wanted education funding to be flat, and then it went up and down from there,” Schultz said.

School Board member Greg Mikolai said the additional $89 million the governor suggested cutting from K–12 education across the state in his 2012–13 budget proposal is about half what he had expected. But Mikolai said another $4 million to $5 million on top of $28.6 million in cuts to the district made since 2009 would still hurt without the cushion of an override.

“What comes next is impact to schools, classes and students,” he said.

School Board member Leslie Kiesler said Tuesday night the board will “have to evaluate everything” after the override, known as Referred Measure 3B, failed with 21,951 votes against it and 14,415 votes in its favor.

“I’m sure we’ll wait until after the holidays and allow everyone to rest because we’ve worked very hard on this” before making solid budget decisions, Kiesler said.

Kiesler said she never felt Referred Measure 3B was a “sure thing.” But she was surprised at the outcome, given the number of “Yes on 3B” signs dotting the community. School Board candidate-elects Jeff Leany and Ann Tisue said they were surprised at the outcome of the election for the same reason.

Tisue was surprised 3B failed because she said the only public opposition she heard about 3B came from Leany. Leany said the override would have made it harder for Mesa County to attract new businesses.

“The voters have spoken, and it was a smart decision,” he said.

Cindy Enos-Martinez, who lost the election to Tisue in District B on Tuesday, said she was more disappointed about 3B than her own loss.

“I don’t know where you keep cutting. I don’t know what people are thinking — definitely not about the kids,” she said.

The only other mill levy override question on Mesa County ballots this year also failed. Referred Question 3A, which would have provided $350,000 a year for five years to De Beque School District 49-JT, failed with 130 votes against it and 117 votes for it.



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