Dr. Walt Cooper
(Click for bio)
Bond issues like the one the Cheyenne Mountain School District is proposing this fall are familiar to most voters as they have been the sole source for Colorado school districts being able to raise funds for facility improvements for decades. And in most cases, voters are accustomed to bond issue election questions being easy to understand…a simple “yes” or “no” vote on a single question did the trick. When voters in District 12 receive their ballots in the mail this October, however, this won’t be the case, for good reason.
Voters in District 12 will actually see two ballot questions, Issue 3D and Issue 3E, rather than the customary single bond issue question. These questions are inextricably linked to a single bond issue, but both Issues 3D and 3E must pass for the bond issue to move forward.
There will be two questions on the ballot because the Board of Education has voluntarily chosen to add a tax rate “cap” as a protection to taxpayers. The effect of Issue 3E and this mill levy cap is to ensure voters that the District 12 tax rate cannot be raised beyond 53 mills without a subsequent vote of District 12 citizens. This increase of the tax rate to a cap of 53 mills results in a tax impact of less than $2 per month for each $100,000 of residential home value, or less than $100 per year for most of us who own homes in District 12.
Why is this important in conjunction with the typical bond issue question before voters? Because by Colorado law, bond issue questions like Issue 3D must contain language that says, in part, “…and shall the mill levy be increased in any year, without limitation…” So while voters typically support bond issues because of the resulting investment in their local community, this mandatory ballot language creates virtually a blank check in terms of taxing authority for school districts, which is difficult for many voters to support, for very good reason.
The Board of Education and I agree that unlimited taxing authority is poor fiscal policy, and if we could change the ballot language in Issue 3D to eliminate this provision we would do so and that would be an easy “fix.” However, since Colorado law dictates otherwise, the next best thing to protect District 12 taxpayers is a self-imposed and binding mill levy cap on the District; hence, Issue 3E.
So, what happens if one issue passes and the other fails? The answer is quite simple…both Issues 3D and 3E must pass in order to move forward with the bond issue and construction program. One without the other has the effect of neither passing.
In order to more fully understand the scope of the proposed bond projects and the resulting tax impacts, I strongly encourage all District 12 citizens to attend one of the upcoming public forums being held by the Board of Education. Dates and times for all forums are posted on www.cmsd12.org.