Dr. Walt Cooper
(Click for bio)
As the dust from November 5th settles, many across the state are still trying to make sense of what happened on Election Day and sort out the deeper meaning of the resounding defeat of Amendment 66, the number of high profile school board seats won by reform agenda, anti-union candidates, and most all local mill levy and bond issues finding little voter support regardless of where they were proposed. And while the debate and questions surrounding these outcomes may spur interesting and provocative conversations, I believe that one thing became tremendously clear. The recent election outcomes underscore how fortunate we are to have the level of community support we experience in District 12.
Looking back at 2011 when we proposed our last mill levy override to voters, critics from outside the Cheyenne Mountain School District thought we were foolish to pursue a local tax increase at a time when the economy was perhaps at its worst. When that ballot issue passed, critics characterized the only reason for success was the District’s demographics and relative ability to pay. I believed then, and I believe now, that the reasons for our community’s support were its commitment to our youth, a desire to sustaining the excellence that is expected from D-12 schools, a high level of trust that the additional money would be used wisely as we promised, and the appreciation that local tax dollars would stay local and not get “lost” in the state’s general fund. I think last week’s election reinforced my perspective, for if a similar demographic and like financial ability to pay were the secrets to success, other school district issues would have prevailed rather than being defeated by landslide margins.
Amendment 66’s defeat also reinforces the importance of our aforementioned 2011 mill levy override. When we proposed this issue in 2011, we very intentionally structured the override to grow into the full benefit of the override over time. In fact, even though we have gained some financial relief from the override in the last two years, we actually won’t begin to realize the full benefit of the override until the 2016-2017 school year. But, realizing the full benefit this existing override is ultimately contingent on one thing: our community’s support of a bond issue for capital improvements identified in our long-range capital plan.
Typically, mill levy overrides and bond issues aren’t directly related, so one might question why I make a connection in our case. The answer is fairly simple. A successful bond issue in the next year or two will eliminate our having to use revenue generated by our current mill levy (which includes the override) to fund facility improvements. If we’re unsuccessful with a bond issue, we will have to apportion some of our existing revenue toward needed capital improvements, and as a result, we would not realize the full benefit or intent of the override our community supported in 2011. As a result, we are now more committed than ever to finalizing our technology and capital investment plans and presenting them to the D-12 community for review.