We all should thank the Women In Support of Education for organizing the Ridgway School Board candidate forum. While some submitted questions were not asked, and some asked questions may not have shed much light, overall the forum provided a glimpse of the candidates that may not be available otherwise. Thank you.
A major disappointment was how few candidates, including one sitting board member who publicly supports its passage, appear to have researched or understood the ramifications of Amendment 66. Voters should understand Amendment 66 does much more than provide funds for schools in the near term. Its effects can be summarized as consisting of three major parts.
1. It would not only increase income tax revenue by about one billion dollars annually. It introduces a progressive tax structure without indexing for inflation. Thinking in terms of individuals and families the threshold for higher tax rates may seem high today but each year more families will be taxed at the higher rate. Worse, many overlook that most unincorporated small businesses are taxed on individual returns. That $75,000 threshold has to not only pay a living wage for the owners but is also the source for paying off business debt, buying replacement equipment, vehicles, training employees, etc. Amendment 66 does not index the threshold, so this may be lemonade-stand money before the Constitution can be changed. Also, those additional percentages of income tax (0.37% and 1.27%) are to always go to a K-12 only education fund – this is not a general increase.
2. On top of forever allotting the above percentages of income tax to the K-12 education fund Amendment 66 embeds into the Constitution the requirement that 43 percent of most revenues be skimmed off the top for that fund. Previously in response to major flooding the legislature enacted a short term tax and shared revenues with local governments. Recent flood damage to public facilities has been estimated at $1 Billion. Under this amendment if the legislature attempts to raise $1 Billion for repairs the tax would have to be $1,754,385,965 because the k-12 education fund automatically grabs 43 percent, no matter how stuffed that education fund might be already. This alone should make this amendment a non-starter for everyone who cares about Colorado’s ability to govern in a rational manner.
3. Passage of Amendment 66 is a trigger that activates SB13-213, a very complicated 140+ page bill that changes allocation of funds among school districts. It includes pressure on local school districts to raise property tax by specified mil-levy amounts and under some conditions requires those property taxes be sent to Denver. It includes more centralized control. Few can afford the effort it takes to understand its ramifications, fewer understand it. The school system itself kept changing its projections of perceived windfall.
Whether or not one believes more money should be provided to the schools, or that resource allocation should be controlled by Denver, this amendment is devastating to the ability of the state government to operate with reasonable flexibility. One consequence would be the transfer of about $350 Million from public colleges to P-12, the logical conclusion being voters prefer to provide day care for preschool children over critical funding of higher education. A local consequence is that Ouray county taxpayers would send roughly $767,000 more to Denver every year and in return Ouray schools would receive less in state funds than they do now and Ridgway schools would receive all of $63,000 more – maybe. Those polished ads paid for by a few who will benefit would lead you to believe that all school funding issues will be solved by $133/year. Not so.
It is sad that so many candidates for school board either do not understand or do not care, that they would sacrifice higher education for “free” public preschool day care and that K-12 school administrators place a higher priority on receiving a few dollars (maybe) over the general welfare of the state.
– Richard Wojciechowski, Log Hill, Ouray County