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Future Funding FAQs

Jeffco photo collage

 

To view questions in a particular category, click on the category title to open that menu. As for an answer to the most popular question we get, here is a quick video primer on the differences between bonds and mill levy overrides:



 

Jeffco Funding Questions

Why is Jeffco Public Schools asking for more funding?

To help students and enhance student learning. Bond funds would support capital improvements at every school. Mill Levy Override funds would support teacher and staff compensation. Please see the Bond and Mill Levy pages for details.

 

We give you a lot of money, what are you doing with it?

We spend public education dollars on the people, services, and materials that make educating our students possible. All public schools in Colorado follow mandatory financial transparency laws, including Jeffco Public Schools. We also go a step further and have all our financial information available online. Our biggest expense is people: teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, food service workers, bus drivers, custodians, and more. These are the people who teach our kids, who keep our schools operating, and keep our schools safe. Competitive compensation and benefits are one of the key factors to attracting and keeping quality employees who serve our students and community.

 

How does Jeffco's funding compare to nearby districts?

Comparisons per pupil revenue, mill levies and bonds:

District # of Students State Per Pupil Funding 2017/18 Mill Levy Override Per Pupil 2017/18 Outstanding Bonds Per Pupil 2016/17
Denver 91,794  $7,925 $2,266 $20,585
 Jeffco 86,112
(2nd)
$7,478
(4th)
$1,316
(5th)
$4,485
(6th)
Douglas 67,597 $7,369 $499 $4,513
Cherry Creek 55,657 $7,630 $2,048 $10,299
Boulder 31,282 $7,582 $2,217 $23,203
Littleton 15,643 $7,373 $1,842 $8,695

 

 

Why not cut central staff and give more funding to the teachers who need it?

Central services have been cut several times in the last decade. Jeffco Public Schools spends about 4% of the compensation budget on central administration. Further cuts to central services will not result in the scale of dollars necessary to make impactful compensation and staffing additions in schools and every cut reduces support to schools.

Seventy percent of the general fund supports instruction in Jeffco Public Schools. Our district spends less on central administration than many surrounding districts. Dr. Glass published an On the Issues report on this last October.

District District Admin Spending
Boulder Valley $132 per student
Cherry Creek $89 per student
Denver Public Schools $84 per student
Douglas County $71 per student
Jeffco Public Schools $61 per student

 

Central services includes support for all schools in areas such as special education, gifted and talented, curriculum, human resources, student services (counseling, diversity), English language learners, food service, security, transportation, legal services, building maintenance, IT, and more. Only about 0.46% of the compensation budget, or $2 million, of our $714 million general fund goes towards executive-level administration (chiefs and executive directors). 

 

Jeffco Bond/Mill History

We voted for more funding in 2012, where did that money go?

The 2012 "warm, safe, and dry" bond and mill levy override was much appreciated; the funds were invested in capital improvements at almost all our schools. The mill levy override helped stop further reductions planned for FY 2014 and restored lost work days for staff.

Take a look at the lists below for a history of bonds and mill levy overrides requested and received in the past 20 years.


Bonds

  • 1998 – $265 Million
  • 2004 – $323.8 Million
  • 2008 – Defeated
  • 2012 – $99 Million
  • 2016 – Defeated

Note: Bonds end with the repayment of the debt.

 

Mill Levy Overrides

  • 1998 – Defeated
  • 1999 – $35.8 Million ($45 Million authorized)
  • 2004 – $38.5 Million
  • 2008 – Defeated
  • 2012 – $39 Million
  • 2016 – Defeated
    TOTAL = $113.3 Million

Note: Mill levies continue unless changed by election.

State Funding & Amendment 73

How does Colorado compare to other states in terms of K-12 education funding?

Colorado’s per pupil spending has been dropping from national averages since the early 1990s and is now $2,200 less than the national average, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. That means that schools in Colorado rank 42nd in the nation in per-student spending. This has been brought about by a mixture of competing state constitutional provisions (see below for more information about the Budget Stabilization Factor and Amendment 23).

Looking at all combined funds (federal, state, and local), here are the top 10 spending states, compared to Colorado:

State Per Pupil Spending
DC $29,949
NY $24,116
AK $22,338
CT $21,484
NJ $21,097
WY $20,889
VT $20,291
MA $18,387
PA $17,937
RI $17,416
US Average $13,246
CO $11,010

 

What is the Budget Stabilization Factor (formerly known as the Negative Factor)?

The state legislature enacted the Negative Factor in 2010 to help balance the state budget during the recession. It essentially cuts the amount of funding to public K-12 education that is spelled out in state law (Amendment 23). Since 2010, Jeffco Public Schools has been underfunded $642 million compared to pre-recession levels. For this current budget year alone, our schools are being underfunded $75 million compared to pre-recession levels.

 

What is Amendment 23?

Amendment 23 was a state constitutional change passed in 2000 to reverse a decade of budget cuts experienced by Colorado school districts throughout the 1990s. The law was only followed through 2009; then the Negative Factor was imposed.

 

Does Amendment 73 change or circumvent TABOR?

Amendment 73 would be an amendment to the state constitution, as was the TABOR Amendment. Among its provisions, Amendment 73 creates $1.6 billion for preK-12 education through a progressive income tax on filers making more than $150,000 annually and a tax on corporations. It does not remove or invalidate the TABOR Amendment. The Amendment 73 funds, once collected, will be excluded from TABOR revenue limits. However, this amendment uses the appropriate and legal route in Colorado to make a change to the state constitution.

 

How can I get more information about Amendment 73?

 

State Marijuana Funding

Where is all the pot money? Doesn't it fix the school funding shortage?

Some of the state tax revenue from retail marijuana sales funds state education grant programs, but "pot money" is never going to be adequate to fix public school funding.

The entire state is eligible to apply for $40-60 million of school grant funds each year. Jeffco has received $2 million since the inception of marijuana funding. This is less than 0.3% of Jeffco's general fund annual budget for 2017/18. Here are a couple of news stories that illustrate where the money goes:


General Bond/Mill Questions

What is the difference between and Bond and a Mill Levy Override?

A bond supports the school building itself; mill levy override funds support what happens in the building. Bonds are similar to a mortgage for school buildings and other facilities needs. A mill levy override provides funds for ongoing operations expenses such as teacher salaries, classroom materials, computer equipment for students, counseling support, and school safety staff.

Both a bond and a mill levy override are funded through property taxes.

 

Does a mill levy override grow with inflation?

Jeffco mill levy overrides have always been structured so that the value of the mill does not decrease in worth over time. School expenses are subject to inflation, just like everything else, so this helps to maintain a stable funding level. However, if the economy shifts negatively, so will this mill factor, as it reflects the local economy.

How is financing structured for bonds?

(The following information was provided by a third party expert on school and municipal financing.)

It is common practice and prudent for a school district to take its outstanding bonds into consideration when developing a financing structure for a new bond program. In doing so, a district can balance the total repayment cost of the new bonds with the tax impact to homeowners and businesses.

It is also common practice to evaluate the lifespan of the assets being financed when developing a bond structure. For example, computers might be financed over a 5 year period while buildings and improvements thereto might be financed over 20+ years.

There are state statues in Colorado that dictate how school districts are legally able to structure bond financings such as a maximum maturity of 25 years. Jeffco School’s planned bond financing structure adheres to Colorado state laws. As a school district, Jeffco Schools is able to issue "tax-exempt" municipal bonds which provide for a significantly lower interest rate than that available to non-municipal entities.

Specific 2018 Bond/Mill Questions

Where will the mill levy override money be spent?

Information about where the mill levy override will be spent

You can read additional information in our online booklet.


What percent of the mill levy override will be spent on PERA?

Compensation includes benefits like PERA and insurance, but most of the dollars will be for salary increases. Benefit increases are estimated with compensation increases. Our benefits percentage is, on average, 30% which also includes district health benefits.

Where will the bond money be spent?

Information about where the mill levy override will be spent

You can read additional information in our online booklet or read this story in the Arvada Press.


What schools will receive an addition if the bond passes?

Elementary school additions:

  • Edgewater Elementary School (Edgewater)
  • Lumberg Elementary School (Edgewater)
  • Molholm Elementary School (Lakewood)
  • Foster Elementary School (Arvada)
  • Powderhorn Elementary School (Littleton)
  • Parmalee Elementary School (Indian Hills)
  • Wilmot Elementay School (Evergreen)

Middle school additions:

  • Bell Middle School (Golden)
  • Evergreen Middle School (Evergreen)
  • The Manning School (Golden)
  • Oberon Middle School (Arvada)
  • Wayne Carle Middle School (Westminster)

High school additions:

  • Alameda International Jr/Sr High School (Lakewood)
  • Arvada High School (Arvada)
  • Columbine High School (Littleton)
  • Conifer High School (Conifer)
  • Green Mountain High School (Lakewood)
  • Jefferson Jr/Sr High School (Edgewater)
  • Pomona High School (Arvada)
  • Ralston Valley High School (Arvada)
  • Standley Lake High School (Westminster)

Other additions:

  • Jeffco Open School (Lakewood)
  • Three Creeks K-8 (Arvada)

 

What schools will be replaced if the bond passes?

Kendrick Lakes Elementary School (Lakewood), Marshdale Elementary School (Evergreen), and Prospect Valley Elementary School (Wheat Ridge) will all receive on-site replacements if the bond passes.

 

What new schools will be built if the bond passes?

Locations for new school sites are not final. We have plans for schools in West Central Lakewood and NW Arvada/Leyden Rock but haven’t settled on a specific locations at this time. These will likely be elementary schools.

 

Keep in mind that ALL SCHOOLS will receive improvements if a bond is passed. For information about what would happen at each school, visit our Facilities Facts Page.

 

How much would the proposed bond and mill cost property owners?

Our estimates are a $46.92/year increase for homeowners per $100K of house value and a $188.96/year increase for commercial property owners per $100K of value. (These are estimates based on current data, interest rates, etc.)

 

How is the tax impact for the bond structured?

If 5B is passed by voters, as part of our fiduciary responsibility, it is imperative that all potential outstanding debt be evaluated to assess the overall impact to the taxpayer, future capacity, and needs for the district.

The district’s debt modeling for the proposed new issuance of 5B bonds includes consideration of current outstanding debt and existing mill levies used to repay such debt. This overall consideration, to past and new debt, provides the foundation at which the district would structure any new issuance of bonds.

The current model, which is the basis for the bond election language, has been reviewed and vetted by district finance staff as well as the managing underwriter for the district, a nationally recognized financial services firm experienced in debt modeling. This model is one frequently used by school districts and other governmental agencies having multiple debt issues which accomplish short and long term capital improvement programs.

Arguments For and Against the Bond and Mill

The comments below were provided by Jefferson County. These are collected for and against ballot issues and are required to be provided in a 500 word summary format. The comments accepted are not verified.


5A: Mill Levy Override

The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons FOR the proposal:

Issue 5A will allow Jeffco to offer competitive compensation to attract the best educators and staff and keep them here. On average, teachers in Boulder make $75,000. Cherry Creek is second at $71,000. Littleton is third at $66,000. Jeffco falls below all three with an average teacher salary of $57,000. Jeffco should be a destination district for educators. We can do more to ensure the teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, IT professionals, and others who educate our children, maintain our school buildings, and keep our students safe are the best.

Additional mill levy overrides in other communities make it hard for Jeffco to compete. Denver students benefit from $950 more per student than Jeffco students; Boulder Valley students get $901 more per student; Cherry Creek students get $732 more per student; and Littleton students get $526 more per student.

With 5A, schools will have more money for resources and programming to help students develop 21st-century skills. This includes expanding STEM, technology, and career programming across the district. 5A would also provide funding to establish another campus for Warren Tech in addition to the current central and north campuses.
5A allows Jeffco to be more proactive concerning student safety. Improvements include additional mental health support and counseling professionals to improve student mental health services, including suicide prevention and substance abuse counseling.

No funds from 5A will be spent on senior district administration. All 5A funds will be used to expand education programming and support our students in the classroom. 5A funds will be monitored by a citizen oversight committee, and audited annually by an independent party.

5A funds will improve education by replacing worn-out and outdated classroom textbooks and materials. Student achievement scores continue to outpace the state in every subject. Think how much more we could do with current textbooks and materials. 5A also funds an expansion of early childhood education to ensure our students are prepared for elementary school and beyond.

An investment in Jeffco provides a significant return: 2018 graduates received more than $80 million in scholarship offers. Also, 35 Jeffco Schools recently earned 45 academic awards from the Colorado Department of Education, and three Jeffco high schools made a national magazine’s Top 25 List for the Best High Schools in the Country.
All of our schools — charter, neighborhood, and option — share 5A dollars equally. That’s an investment in all Jeffco students and in Jeffco’s future.

Since 2010, Jeffco has received $642 million less in state funding due to the state’s budget situation. During that time, the district has operated as efficiently as possible and spends less per-pupil dollars on administrative costs than neighboring districts. 5A provides a local funding solution that stays in Jeffco to benefit Jeffco and provides more school level budget funding so schools can best serve the needs and interests of their students. Together, 5A and 5B are an investment in Jeffco’s future that will cost just $3.91 per month for every $100,000 of assessed home value.

The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons AGAINST the proposal:

5A will NOT attract and retain great teachers. 75% of the total is planned to go to PERA which has no ability to encourage new, highly qualified teachers.

There is no mention or promise to allocate any of these funds toward improving student achievement. Having 50% of our 3rd graders reading below grade level or Wheat Ridge High School in the 40 percentile nationally instead of the top 10 is unacceptable.

Jeffco student enrollment in district run schools is declining. If the student enrollment is not increasing and achievement is not improving, there is no reason to increase spending by $90 million ($1100 more per student) that only results in a growing bureaucracy. For example, over 10 new administrators have recently been hired, each making over $100,000. Since the numbers of students and teachers are declining, there is no logical reason for such hires.

5A purports to be just a $33 million per year increase in taxes; however the amount will increase with inflation but not decrease if the economy declines.
Jeffco’s budget is currently One Billion per year – more than $250,000 per classroom. Given the lack of an increase in number of students, no increase in taxes is warranted.
Increasing property taxes hurts our senior population living on fixed incomes. And by raising the cost of housing, it becomes more difficult for young families with potential students to rent or buy.

In 2015, 63% of Jeffco 4th graders did not meet the State math standard. Three years later, on the 2018 test, 61% of Jeffco 7th graders didn’t meet the math standard. Jeffco needs to quickly and substantially improve student achievement performance to enable our children to succeed in an intensely competitive global economy. In 1999, Jeffco passed a national-award winning "Performance Promise" mill levy that tied increasing taxpayer support for schools to improving student achievement results. 5A does not do that.


5B: Bond

The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons FOR the proposal:

The average Jeffco school is more than 50 years old. Our school buildings and athletic fields host students, teachers, administrators, staff, families and community members during and after school, on weekends, and during breaks. We must invest in renovation and repairs to extend the life of Jeffco taxpayers’ biggest asset, our schools.

5B will fund major renovations and capital repairs needed to keep our neighborhood schools open and allow the district to save thousands of dollars on utility bills annually by upgrading to more efficient HVAC and electrical systems. All schools will receive improvements, and 10% of the bond will go to Jeffco’s charter schools.

5B funding will be used to update science labs and learning spaces in high schools built before 1980 and before personal computers were commonplace. Our students will be more prepared for college and career if they are educated in a building equipped for the technology they need in the future.

5B will fund state-of-the-art security systems to improve communication between schools, the district security office, and local law enforcement agencies in an emergency. 5B also funds an interior lock in every classroom, which is a proven first line of defense in protecting students.

5B will be used to implement Phase I of the Outdoor Lab Master Plan for much-needed improvements and repairs to both the Windy Peak and Mount Evans schools.
With 5B funding, Jeffco could build a Warren Tech South facility to expand career and technical programming choices. 5B also includes funding for two new schools and additions to some existing schools that currently have students in temporary classrooms.

Bond funds will also renovate closed buildings in preparation for future educational programming. For example, by renovating the former Sobesky building in Lakewood, it would be available for the proposed arts school or for a different option school program. 5B also includes improvements to sporting facilities like Trailblazer Stadium.

Jeffco has been accountable with our tax dollars. All projects in the 2012 bond package were completed on time and within budget. Bond funds will not be used for senior administration salaries and will be subject to an annual external audit. A citizen oversight committee will monitor the planning and execution of the bond package.
Jeffco has the lowest debt service of all neighboring districts and has not passed a bond for new construction since 2004. Jeffco has not received any marijuana tax revenue for capital construction. With construction costs increasing by 8 to 12% annually, taxpayers save money by building now.

Jeffco has a growing repair and maintenance backlog because it has received $642 million less in state funding than it should have since 2010. 5B will fund the replacement of four aging schools as well as improvements at all our schools to create safer schools and stronger, more vibrant neighborhoods and communities throughout Jeffco. Together, 5A and 5B are an investment in Jeffco’s future that will cost just $3.91 per month for every $100,000 of home value.

The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons AGAINST the proposal:

5B will cost just below $1 Billion to pay off and does not address repairs to the buildings most in need of repair. $170 million of this would be due to unnecessary interest because of the back-loaded nature of the repayment structure. This design puts the onus on our children and grandchildren to make those payments.

Parr, Stober and Green Gables were all promised new buildings in the 2016 proposed bond but do not get new buildings now, instead getting only “band aid” repairs.
The board wasted $60 million by adding unneeded capacity to middle schools as enrollment in district schools is declining. Don’t let them waste a billion dollars more. 

This Billion Dollar proposal has no plans to add new schools even though Jeffco has been saying new elementary schools are needed in Arvada. Fletcher Miller was promised $22 million for a new building in the 2016 proposal… only gets $2 million. Jefferson Jr / Sr was promised $30 million for improvements in the 2016 proposal… gets less than $14 million. Wheat Ridge, Columbine and Green Mountain need new buildings just like Lakewood, Golden and Bear Creek. 5B only provides crumbs.

It makes absolutely no fiscal sense to make payments for 20 years to pay for lightbulbs or landscaping.
Nor does it make good sense to use $390 million of the initial $567 million on buildings considered to be in “fair” or “good” condition and not bring buildings in “poor” condition up to the same level.

It is unacceptable to have $20 million in non-allocated money.

Increasing property taxes hurts our senior population living on fixed incomes. And by raising the cost of housing, it becomes more difficult for young families with potential students to rent or buy.

In 2016/2017, district-run schools used only 81% of their capacity, which, given projections for flat student enrollment in the future, suggests that facility rationalization could significantly reduce Jeffco’s costs.
The latest Facilities Condition review shows that some Jeffco schools are in poor condition and need replacement. Yet the proposed bond issue does not fund this (e.g., replacement of Wheat Ridge and Pomona high schools). And there is no proposal to close schools that have low utilization and are in poor condition.

Rather than basing this proposed bond issue on a clear long-term capital plan that includes school closures, new school construction, and school boundary changes, the district proposes to spend most of the $567 million bond proceeds on a series of short-term measures to keep the current inefficient system afloat.

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