Editor’s note: Now through the Nov. 5 election, the Herald is examining common claims made in ballot campaigns.
Campaign: Amendment 66, an income tax increase for public schools.
Claim: Amendment 66 will extract more money from certain taxpayers than it gives to their county schools.
Who is saying it: The Independence Institute, which opposes Amendment 66.
Although supporters of Amendment 66 don’t publicize it, this is precisely the point of the new school finance formula that the amendment would enable.
The formula sets aside money for districts with high populations of low-income families and at-risk students. It also creates a fund to help districts that can’t raise much money because of their low property tax bases. Relatively well-off districts will not get to use that fund.
The aim is to reverse a trend of the state paying more and more for local schools, regardless of whether the districts serve rich or poor communities.
Twenty years ago, the state government paid about 40 percent of the cost of schools, while local taxpayers paid 60 percent. The state paid more for poorer districts. Now, the ratio is reversed, with the state picking up 60 percent and local taxpayers – even in comparatively rich districts – paying less.
According to the Independence Institute’s analysis, Jefferson, Douglas and Boulder counties will account for 32 percent of the new taxes, while their school districts would get just 17 percent of the new revenue.
The Yes on 66 campaign promotes a message that all school districts will receive something from the tax, but the fact is that districts with solid local tax bases – including the affluent suburban counties identified in the Independence Institute’s report, as well as districts with gas and oil activity in La Plata County – will get less of an increase than needier districts.
For Amendment 66’s designers, that’s a feature, not a bug.