District 51 Foundation seeks school support

Fundraising letters began arriving last week at certain homes in the Grand Valley, seeking money to support schools.

That news may not provoke rousing cheers from many folks in this area, who feel overburdened in a down economy and see requests for money from so many groups and individuals.

But this fundraising request is different. It comes from the School District 51 Foundation, and it is a direct response to voters’ rejection last November of Referred Measure 3B. That ballot measure would have raised property taxes and temporarily removed TABOR Amendment funding restrictions to boost revenue for District 51.

The measure was soundly defeated by area voters. Still, some 14,000 people cast their ballots in support of the measure. Readers may recall that Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland suggested after the defeat that people who voted for the measure and wanted more money to go to local schools, could do so by donating directly to the school district what they would have paid in additional property taxes if Measure 3B had passed.

The School District 51 Foundation, which was formed last fall, is providing a vehicle to do that through tax-deductible donations to the foundation. And, although its fundraising letter sent last week targets households that are believed to have been supportive of Measure 3B last year, one doesn’t have to be among those targeted to donate.

Additionally, money people contribute won’t simply go into the District 51 general fund. Instead, it will go toward three objectives established by the foundation’s board of directors.

One is reading. The foundation hopes to use some of the money it raises to assist the district with literacy programs, such as the one that helped boost reading proficiency at Clifton Elementary School.

Also, the foundation wants to focus on college preparation and workforce development, and to assist schools in acquiring technology important in preparing students in the 21st century.

The foundation is independent of the school district, but it plans to work with District 51 officials to determine where needs are greatest in each of those three areas.

The foundation hopes to raise $500,000 this year and disburse it to the school district at the end of the year. Long-term, the group wants to establish an endowment to assist the district, just as is done by foundations at many universities.

The funding picture for District 51 brightened a bit last week, thanks to improving state revenue forecasts. But the district still has to cut from next year’s budget, and it hasn’t begun to restore the $28 million in cuts made over the past three years.

Those who believe the district needs more revenue have a practical and voluntary means of achieving that through the School District 51 Foundation.


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