County quiet on state tax ballot issue

A stack of Proposition 103 support signs are available at the offices of Mesa Valley Education Association.

So far, only two or three have been plucked from the pile, according to association President Jim Smyth. One is outside the local teacher representation group’s office at 720 Glenwood Ave. But that doesn’t mean the association endorses the ballot measure.

“As an organization we decided not to be outspoken on it,” Smyth said of Proposition 103. “If people add on 103 after (voting for 3B), that’s great.”

Smyth isn’t the only local shying away from Proposition 103 or even the only person worried some voters may choose between the proposition and 3B in the Nov. 1 election because they are both tax measures related to education. Proposition 103 has been rejected by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, left unendorsed by Colorado Mesa University and the District 51 school board, and panned by District 51 School Board candidates Jeff Leany and Ann Tisue. Candidate Cindy Enos-Martinez is on the fence about the issue and called 3B her “first choice” if she had to decide between the two.

If passed, 3B would increase property tax mills within School District 51 boundaries to raise about $12.5 million a year for six years to fund District 51 education. Proposition 103 would increase state sales tax by a tenth of a percent and increase income tax from 4.63 percent to 5 percent for five years. That money would also be used for schools throughout the state.

Proposition 103 author Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, supports both measures passing in Mesa County but said he has received more push-back from certain Mesa County groups than he has in other communities voting on an override. He said District 51’s override alone will not make up for state budget cuts the district has made or may make in the next few years.

“It’s complementary. I truly believe that,” Heath said of his measure and 3B. “To make any progress at all, we need both to pass.”

Grand Junction Area Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke said the chamber deliberately endorsed 3B and opposed 103 in the same motion because money from the override would be used locally, while Proposition 103 earnings would be sent to Denver for legislators to divide between schools.

“When we send money over the mountain, the (school) funding formula is not kind to District 51,” Schwenke said.

Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, has endorsed 3B at two rallies but is opposed to 103 because he feels Proposition 103 is not specific enough about where it will send money and how much each school will get. He lamented that it would not change the state’s school funding formula to send more money to District 51.

The override would not change the funding formula either, King admits, but “it does in a way because more money will stay here instead of going to the School Finance Act.”

“Rather than supplement the School Finance Act, why don’t we supplement our own school district?” King said.

Even though Proposition 103 may funnel additional funds to Colorado colleges and universities and the override would not, 3B, not Proposition 103, got an endorsement this week from Colorado Mesa University trustees.

Trustee Lena Elliott said at Wednesday’s trustee meeting 3B got the nod because “we partner with the school district in several areas.”

Trustee Chairman Doug Price said Proposition 103 would impact schools statewide and, because of that reach, he believed there would be “too much divisiveness on the board” to endorse it. Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster said the proposition was “not well thought-out.”

State Board of Education member and former District 51 School Board member Marcia Neal spoke against Proposition 103 at an event hosted earlier this month by the League of Women Voters and Kids Voting Mesa County. Neal has not taken a position on 3B but said 103 “has the potential to harm districts that are doing their own mill levy increase” because some people may confuse the two or think there are too many funding measures on the ballot.

Heath said he has heard Proposition 103 is polling “about even” statewide. North Carolina-based and Democratic Party-affiliated survey firm Public Policy Polling polled Colorado voters on Proposition 103 10 weeks ago and found 45 percent of those surveyed planned to vote for it and 47 percent planned to vote against it.


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