Supporters of increased school funding to rally on Saturday

Friends of School District 51 will host its first campaign event this weekend to support the school district’s proposed mill levy override.

The event will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday outside Mesa Mall in a parking lot on the west side of the mall.

District 51 School Board member Greg Mikolai, State Sen. Steve King and Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland will speak briefly during the gathering. The main focus is to hand out 1,500 yard signs that have been printed for homeowners who support the override.

“It’s about thanking everybody that’s putting a yard sign out and how to talk to neighbors about the override,” Mikolai said.

Friends of School District 51 paid for the yard signs. Community members started the group this summer while District 51 was considering the override, and they registered as a campaign committee in August.

District 51 employees are not allowed to campaign for ballot measures while at work or use district resources to campaign. Elected officials, including school board members, are not subject to those restrictions.

Voters will begin receiving coordinated election ballots containing the override question in less than three weeks. The override asks for a six-year increase of 7 mills in the local property tax formula, which would generate $12.5 million in the first year, 2012. That money would begin to flow to District 51 schools in April or May, according to District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita.

The override question does not limit how the district could spend the override money, but it lists rehiring teachers, restoring lost school days, purchasing technology and covering state budget cuts as priorities for the override funds. DeVita said the district has not decided which of those items would receive funding first, but the timing of the first influx of override funds, mere weeks before the close of the current school year, likely will affect the timeline.

“We can add days at the end of the year and do one-time technology purchases” immediately, DeVita said. Meanwhile, adding teachers may wait a few months until instructors can start fresh with a new school year.

Ballots for the coordinated election must be returned to Mesa County Elections officials by 7 p.m. Nov. 1.


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