The 2015 Colorado election represents just a few swings in the batting cage for those already entranced by next year’s presidential sweepstakes – with just one statewide question on the ballot along with a smattering of local decisions.
But even for those getting fed up with the growing national flood of hyperbola and vituperation, this year’s polling represents a chance to modestly increase funding for the state’s anemic public education system and provide for a few other causes.
Or to refund good citizens a portion of the state’s marijuana tax – about enough for a fast-food feast or a couple joints to temporarily space out the sorry plight of the schools.
Because of TABOR – what many now believe was an ill-conceived amendment to the state constitution passed in 1992 – voters are being asked to allow the state to keep about $66 million collected from the robust sales of pot following its legalization for recreational use nearly two years ago.
If Proposition BB passes, the state is supposed to spend $40 million on school construction, and the legislature will get $14 million for its own discretionary uses. The rest of the money will go to various educational grants and school programs to prevent drug abuse, bullying and dropouts, along with small amounts for FFA and 4-H exhibitions at the state fair.
If the measure fails, $25 million will be refunded to taxpayers across the state in amounts of $6 to $16, depending on income; $24 million will be returned to recreational marijuana growers; and $17 million will be returned to pot users in the form of temporary tax breaks in January.
There is no organized opposition to Prop BB and even the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce has endorsed it. Voting will be done through mail-in ballots that will be sent out mid-October.
Locally, other entities posing ballot questions to voters include:
Montezuma County Hospital District
MCHD is asking county voters to approve a limited sales-and-use tax that would amount to 4 cents on a $10 transaction to help fund a $14.2 million expansion project at Southwest Memorial Hospital, which is showing its age. Along with other funding sources, the modest tax would be used to construct a modern patient wing, remodel existing space to consolidate the hospital’s scattered outpatient clinics, and improve facilities for the emergency-response team.
Proponents explain that a small tax on goods and services is more equitable than an increased property mill levy, since it would also be paid by tourists and people living outside the county, who also use hospital services. The tax would sunset in 15 years, or sooner if the bond is repaid earlier.
Dolores Water Conservancy District
The DWCD is asking voters to permanently fix its operating mill levy at the current 0.483 mills and to be allowed to retain any additional income it receives, a measure commonly called “de-Brucing.” (It was tax foe Douglas Bruce who pushed for the passage of TABOR.)
“We’re spending more of our resources, and tapping reserve funds, to protect our water rights and meet legal and regulatory challenges,” explained DWCD President Bruce Smart in a release, adding that dealing with problems associated with the protracted drought and the threat of an invasion by destructive mussels at McPhee Reservoir are also adding to the district’s spending needs.
Smart stressed Question 4A is “purely a housekeeping measure (that) requires voter approval because it deals with our mill-levy rate,” even though it is not a tax increase.
Dolores Re-4A School District
Similarly, the Dolores Re-4A School District is asking residents permission to continue collecting a mill levy that will otherwise expire next year. The 7-mill levy generates about $390,000 annually and is earmarked for classroom supplies, technology upgrades and keeping teachers’ salaries competitive. Because of the “negative factor” in the state’s arcane funding formula for public schools, Superintendent Scott Cooper explained, the legislature has taken back twice that amount from the district in five of the past seven years.
“That’s a lot of revenue we could have used for a lot of good things,” he said.
If extended, the levy will sunset in 2024.
Dolores County School District Re-2J
Approval of a small mill-levy increase for these schools would provide $350,000 annually for a system that has already seen its funding cut by $400,000 per year, or $2.3 million so far, because of the negative factor, according to Superintendent Bruce Hankins. Passage would bring it back up to the 2007 funding level.
The increase would sunset in 2022. Among other economies, the district has been forced to cut core and elective teachers along with administrative, maintenance, food-service and secretarial positions. Teacher and administrative salaries have been frozen as well.
Hankins said the schools have whittled away at everything they can, including custodial services and supplies, but ultimately have had to cut personnel. “We do not have any other areas to cut,” he said.
Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 Board
In District Re-1, there is a single contested race for four open seats on the school board. Incumbent Sherri Wright is running against challenger Joseph Miller in District C.
In District E, incumbent Pete Montaño is running unopposed. No candidates filed for run in districts F and G; those positions will have to be filled by appointment.