School District Releases Mil Levy Ballot Language
By William Woody
MONTROSE — Official ballot language for Measure 3A, the mil levy increase to raise funds for Montrose County School District RE-1J approved by the school board Tuesday goes to voters on Nov. 4.
Measure 3A seeks to raise RE-1J’s taxes by $2.9 million annually, beginning in the 2014-15 budget year; the funds raised will be used to hire dozens of new teachers, provide teachers with three additional professional development days per school year and purchase new digital learning technology for students. In addition the new money would go towards building improvements and maintenance.
District officials have long wanted to replace the nearly $7 million in annual cuts since the start of the recession, working in recent months to craft a mil levy increase with strict, transparent provisions regarding how expenditures will be tracked by the public.
State law mandates requires ballot language approval by 60 days prior to the November election; Measure 3A, approved unanimously, reads: “By an additional property tax levy at a rate sufficient to produce the amounts specified above, and shall such taxes be deposited into the general fund of the district in addition to any property taxes that otherwise could be levied for the general fund, and shall the taxes so deposited be tracked separately in the district accounting system to ensure that such taxes are used only for the purposes stated above, including such taxes that are not spent in the year collected.”
District Superintendent Dr. Mark MacHale said if the mil levy passes, voters will be presented with regular updates as to where the money is being spent and district plans for future spending.
Assistant Superintendent Kirk Henwood said educating voters about district plans should high priority, and that technology should supplant higher investment areas like hiring additional teachers.
The hiring of new teachers would take place after the conclusion of the 2014-2015 school year.
“Accountability to public will be in our test scores and our technology advancement,” board member Phoebe Benziger said.
The new tax will take effect immediately, and continue through 2019, whereupon voters would have to approve the continuation of the mil levy.
Copies of the ballot language will be available at the district’s website at: www.mcsd.org.
Since the recession, the district has had to operate with over $22 million in cuts as state education funds have been depleted.
A Community School Improvement Team will work to educate the public about how every cent is spent. Separate from the district, the CSIT is not allowed to use district resources like time, technology and other district resources.
“Outside of their contract hours they have the full rights as citizens,” MacHale said of the committee.
MacHale said the task of the district is not only to correct “misinformation,” but also to act as a primary “information supply” chain between taxpayers and district officials. CSIT is planning multiple events in coming months, and residents can expect to see yard signs in mid-September. For more information about CSIT visit: www.yesforourschools.com.
Mail in ballots are expected to reach mailboxes sometime around October 15 -16.