Board talks Amendment 61 what-ifs

District 51 may join the growing November ballot in an effort to offset the effects of another ballot measure.

The district has a handful of options for handling the effects of Amendment 61 if it passes, District Support Services Executive Director Melissa Callahan DeVita told the board Tuesday at a retreat. If passed, Amendment 61 would ban the state from offering interest-free cash loans to school districts, limit loan periods to a year, decrease tax rates once a loan is repaid and limit bonded indebtedness payback periods, which currently last 20 to 30 years on average for school districts, to 10 years.

Alternative education funding options local voters could approve before the amendment passes, in case it passes, include selling land or assets to increase cash reserves or asking Mesa County for an advance on district property tax shares, DeVita said. Options also include permitting the district to issue bonds to cover District 51 general fund costs, something allowed this year only under Senate Bill 205, or to allow the district to maintain its mill levy tax rate while taking a loan that would be repaid by the end of the same fiscal year the money is borrowed, according to DeVita.

Board member Diane Rice said she worries voters will see a district ballot question as an antithesis to Amendment 61 and related measures Amendment 60 and Proposition 101, which will decrease taxes. Neither possible District 51 measure would be a tax increase, though, Superintendent Steve Schultz said.

“People have to understand what we’re doing or it could blow up in our face,” Schultz said.

Board member Leslie Kiesler said several other Colorado school districts have held a place on the November ballot for a funding question in response to Amendment 61. She suggested sharing the responsibility of getting the word out with those districts if District 51 and others go forward with ballot questions.

The district filed paperwork to reserve a spot on the Nov. 2 ballot, Schultz said. The school board has not voted on holding a place on the ballot or whether to ask a question on the ballot, he said.

While election costs vary from year to year, the last election the district was involved in cost about $80,000, according to DeVita.

“Where could we find money to pay for that?” Board member Cindy Enos-Martinez asked.

“We’d have to revamp our budget and find it,” DeVita said.

The district already cut millions from its 2010-11 budget.

The board will vote on a resolution at its next meeting, Aug. 17, expressing opposition to Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. The board has to decide by Sept. 2 whether to place a question on November’s ballot responding to funding issues that may result from the measures.


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