Voters in no mood for more school taxes

Voters throughout Colorado, and in Mesa County, said “No” to raising taxes to provide more money for education. It’s no great surprise, given the economy and people’s uncertainty about the future. But it is a disappointment, nonetheless.

Proposition 103, the statewide ballot measure that would have raised state sales and income tax rates, was losing by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent statewide Tuesday night. Locally, Referred Measure 3B, which would have raised the mill levy for School District 51 by seven mills to boost revenue for the district by approximately $12.5 million a year, lost by almost that same margin.

As we have said before, the future for Colorado and the Grand Valley depends on a solid public education system. And, because of recurring budget cuts the past few years — and more predicted next year — school funding has been sliced significantly.

That’s especially true for School District 51 in Mesa County, where cuts of roughly $28 million over the past three years have meant reductions in teaching staff, administrative personnel and the number of school days. With further reductions of around $8 million projected for next year, and no new revenue approved by voters, more severe cuts will be needed. School board members have talked of closing one or more schools, cutting back on extra-curricular activities, reducing school bus routes, examining a four-day school week and more.

Voters, however, were clearly more worried about the prospect of paying higher taxes than they were about further cuts at the schools. And many of them, who wrote letters to this newspaper or spoke out in other forums, said they weren’t convinced District 51 had cut all the excess from its budget that it could have cut.

Voters have the final say on such tax matters, thanks to the TABOR Amendment that Coloradans approved 19 years ago. And schools throughout Colorado, and in District 51, will continue to operate despite Tuesday’s outcome. But there will be changes, and many of them, we suspect, won’t be popular, even for those who voted “No” on the ballot measures.


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