The Durango school board voted 4-0 to endorse passage of a ballot measure that will increase state taxes $1.6 billion annually to fund preschool through high school education across Colorado.
Amendment 73, which will appear on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot, would provide for a progressive income tax increase for Coloradans making more than $150,000 a year. It also would increase the state’s corporate tax rate from 4.63 percent to 6 percent, but it would lower homeowners’ and businesses’ property tax rates for school districts across the state.
If passed, Durango School District 9-R officials estimate Amendment 73 would generate $8 million per year in new funding for the district.
The resolution supporting the ballot measure was careful to note that Durango voters have supported the district’s mill levy override efforts to escape taxing and spending limits set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
However, the resolution noted many neighboring districts have not succeeded in similar efforts to override TABOR.
The first-year salary for a teacher in Cortez, where a TABOR override has not been successful, is currently $29,900, said 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
Board President Nancy Stubbs said,“I’ve heard from some businesses, some that are not that big, that they could really be harmed by this,” she said.
If the corporate tax rate increase causes businesses to close or to reduce their employment levels, she said, the measure could have unintended harmful impacts.
Still, she said the state needs the measure, the region needs the measure and the effort would begin a recovery from funding cuts that have hit K-12 education after the recession of 2008.
School board member Joe Kusar was absent from the meeting, and board member Mick Souder participated via a teleconference link.
If the measure passes, the board would have a discussion about how to use the $8 million in increased state funding the district anticipates.
Snowberger suggested one option could be to further lower property tax rates for businesses to help them absorb the hit of the increased corporate tax rate.
“It will give our businesses some relief,” Snowberger said.
The measure also would be one way to generate more K-12 education funding from the state, which educators, especially those in rural districts, have said does not adequately meet needs through the current school funding formula.